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Front-Desk Fender Bender

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Hannah Schiffman joined the BodyShop Business team in June 2008. Previously, she was a reporter at a mid-sized daily newspaper for two years. She graduated from the University of Toledo in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in English with a writing emphasis. She is a member of the Women's Industry Network.

Every day, Ashley Hill sits for hours on end behind the wheel of a candy pink ’65 Ford Mustang customized just for her. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

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Hill, a receptionist at Brasher’s Auto & Truck Collision in Wood Village, Ore., is one of five shop employees whose desk has been replaced with a custom-painted, revamped front end of a dream car. In fact, the entire front office at Brasher’s has been outfitted with custom-car furniture that boasts eye-catching craftsmanship created by Brasher’s technicians.

The furniture is the brainchild of Operations Manager Tony Hill and originally stemmed from a celebration of an Oregon collegiate sports rivalry, says Jay Marquess, marketing manager.

Hill, who was visiting a family friend, spotted in a cluttered closet a homemade couch made from the rear end of a Ford Falcon and painted with a University of Oregon Ducks theme. Hill hauled his find back to the shop, fixed it up and went to work building his own couch with an Oregon State Beavers theme from the rear end of a Ford Galaxy 500. Marquess says anyone from the region knows about the deep-seated rivalry between the two universities.

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The new furniture’s arrival coincided with the opening of Brasher’s new office facility. Marquess said the shop used a modular setup for years, and when the new office building opened, it was the perfect place to display Hill’s unique furnishings.

In the customer waiting area, Brasher’s set up a tableaux with the rival couches facing one another. The throw rug between them features a mutual rival – the University of Washington Huskies– and, in case things weren’t clear, a picture hanging above the sofas spells it out: "A House Divided."

"We call the sofas our Civil War section," says Marquess. "It’s a lot of fun for customers. They come in and sit in the sofas, and each one wants to take a side."

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Brasher’s staff will even take pictures of customers on the sofas and e-mail them as a souvenir, and Marquess says people have stopped in just to see the furniture: "It’s created quite a buzz for us."

Once the college-themed couches were finished and the front half of a Ford Galaxy was left over, creating a desk from it seemed like the next logical step, and it snowballed from there. Now, Brasher’s front office features desks made from the front ends of a ’62 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, ’69 Ford F-250, ’08 Dodge Cobra, the Galaxy and the ’65 Mustang. The rear-end of the Cadillac, which has classic fins, was also converted into a couch, and desk stations made from tailgates fold down from the walls to serve as laptop workstations for adjusters and shop clients.

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The vehicles were sourced from salvage yards, Craigslist and even totals that passed through the shop. Each piece of furniture boasts working lights, personalized license plates and custom touches like high-profile wheels and polished chrome to make them stand out. The unique furnishings give customers confidence about Brasher’s quality of work.

"The first thing customers say when they walk in is, ‘Oh! How neat!’" says Marquess. "The second thing they say is, ‘Did you do these?’; And we can tell them that yes, absolutely we did."

The desks also have improved employee morale.

"It was a team effort all the way," Marquess says, noting that it took techs an average of two weeks to assemble each desk. "It was a fun project in the shop. It brought some excitement in, something new, and it makes it fun for the employees to come to work. The environment is very uplifting."

Marquess added that the shop received requests for custom-made pieces from all over the country after a local newspaper ran a story about its unique furnishings, but for now, the shop is happy to stay in the collision repair – not furniture-building – business.

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