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Longtime PBE Industry Veteran Marvin Wolf Passes Away

Jason Stahl has 27 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 15 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

Marvin Wolf, who, along with his brother Joseph, helped his dad William (Bill) Wolf operate one of the oldest body shop supply stores in the country, passed away on May 1 at the age of 86.

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Marvin Wolf

Bill Wolf founded William Wolf & Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1930. The company was a body shop and trim supply store and was one of the original firms to remain in business for nearly 90 years. They were founded to supply automotive trim, tools, and paint supplies and equipment.

Bill, a native of Detroit, came to Cleveland on his honeymoon and saw the need for a business selling trim, supplies, paint and body replacement panels.

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“In the 1930s and 1940s, people held on to cars longer than they do now, so the store sold supplies geared toward auto interior, running boards, etc.” said Michael Wolf, Joe’s son and Marvin’s nephew.

Marvin and Joseph helped operate the business for nearly 60 years. Joe’s son, Michael Wolf, a CPA, joined the business in 1982. Marvin mentored him, and Michael eventually assumed the roles that Marvin handed over.

William Wolf was an original distributor of Arco automotive paint, which eventually became Limco, a refinish paint company owned by BASF. Marvin had an international flair and, in the 1970s through the 1980s, was responsible for getting the store to import Berger Viton paint from England. This was when imported cars were refinished with nitrocellulose lacquer. Berger was owned by Herberts, and the paint evolved into Spies Hecker as well as Standox, owned by Axalta. Marvin and the store became the first distributor of Standox, which was used to repaint British Airways ground equipment as well Range Rovers, which were new to the American market.

(Left to right) Marvin, Bill (who passed away in 1985 at 83), Michael, Joe (who is still alive and well at 90 years old) and longtime employee Jacob Saar circa 1977.

The company also imported Rupes electric shop tools, which the European repairers preferred over air tools. The electric DA sander appealed to the marine and water slide businesses. Marvin had a keen eye for items which were sold in other markets and brought them to the U.S., such as U-POL and Farecla.

Marvin met and made a lot of friendships with industry people in the 1970s through the 2000s, according to Michael, and served as a manufacturer’s rep as well as a consultant for Tremco, which is now known as Transtar Automotive.

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William Wolf & Co. evolved into a modern PBE jobber store with two locations. Marvin was the president, and the business was sold in 2016 to API . At that point, Joe and Marvin were in their 80s but still working every day. Michael stayed with API for four more years, at which time he decided to retire after considering that spending nearly 40 years in the industry was a nice run.

“With the pandemic and everything going on, I decided that was it,” he said. “Plus, our customers were consolidating. The personal nature of the business has changed. It’s hard to say you know all of your customers anymore. The people in the office are not the same people out on the shop floor. Also, a lot of customers passed away with no succession plan for their shops.”

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To read Marvin Wolf’s obituary on Cleveland.com, click here.

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