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Beauty and the Body Shop

Uncovering beauty in a beastly lot and a run-down building, shop owner Boyd Dingman is helping to change the image of the collision repair industry and to maintain the image of an Omaha, Neb., neighborhood.

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In August 1996, Dingman purchased a
building and block-sized lot – last used as a water-bottling plant
and since left uncared for – and turned it into an attractive
new collision repair facility. Earning the appreciation of local
residents, Dingman was awarded a certificate of acknowledgment
earlier this year from the neighborhood association for beautifying
the surrounding area.

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"One day, the [Morton Meadows
Neigborhood] Association called up and told me how much they appreciated
the upgrade to the property," says Dingman. "They said
they wanted to recognize us for our efforts. It was the first
award of that type they had ever presented."

Before opening the Omaha facility and
receiving the accolades of his neighbors, Dingman owned a collision
repair shop in Waverly, Iowa. Though business was good, he and
his wife, Diana, were considering a family move. About the same
time, the Department of Transportation decided to widen the road
in front of Dingman’s shop, which meant the shop’s building would
be purchased by the government to be demolished. So the Dingmans
started looking for a new city to call home.

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"We looked at Minneapolis, Kansas
City, Des Moines and St. Louis and decided on Omaha because it
wasn’t such a big change in population," says Dingman.

Though Omaha was their chosen destination,
he and his wife didn’t want to just move there and open a shop;
they wanted to know all their options. So Dingman went to work
for a paint company selling paint. "It gave me a different
perspective," he says. "It let me see Omaha and what
the market was like."

It also gave him a push.

"The more I called on shops, the
more I wanted to have my own," he says.

During their search for the right location,
Dingman and his wife found the lot and building that now house
their shop. Though the area definitely needed work, Dingman thought
it was a good location – "there isn’t an overabundance of
body shops in the area," he says – and it was easily accessible.

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To improve the appearance of the lot,
they pulled weeds, planted a lawn on the side of the building
and landscaped in front of the shop on an island divider that
runs down the middle of the four-lane street.

To improve the look of the building,
contractors gave the exterior a much needed facelift of glazed
brick and metal fascia with metal overhang that runs around the
structure’s perimeter.

A 15-year Society of Collision Repair
Specialists (SCRS) member, Dingman credits many of the ideas he
used in remodeling the building to fellow SCRS members. "They
gave me perspective and kept me on track," he says.

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Keeping advice from SCRS members in
mind, the interior of the 11,700-square-foot building was designed
with a circular production flow, routing cars through a downdraft
refinishing booth. The front office – comparable to a doctor’s
waiting room – was designed with the customer in mind.

"Our members are, as a rule, good
neighbors," says SCRS Executive Director John Loftus. "They’re
very professionally minded and they do everything they can to
be sharp and look sharp with their businesses. They’re very conscious
of first impressions.

"In Iowa, [Dingman’s first shop]
was in a dealership building that was built back in the ’20s,"
Loftus continues. "The size of the cars, as you know, were
smaller in those years, so he had a smaller area with a little
showroom out front.

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He did a really good job in that facility,
so this [shop] is a natural continuation."

Though some renovating at Dingman’s
is still "in progress," the shop started production
in December 1996 and continues to gain more customers – and admirerers.

"Not only is our facility clean,
it’s a production shop designed to process 400-500 hours a week,"
Dingman says. "We’re new in our area, so we’re just beginning
to ramp up to capacity, but we’re getting noticed.

"There aren’t too many facilities
that look like ours in the city. We have customers and adjusters
come in and comment on that all the time."

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Writer Melissa McGee is managing editor
of BodyShop Business.

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