Westgate Auto Body owner Craig Borash and manager David Martinez moved to the small town of West Yellowstone in 1993 and noticed that there was not a body shop within a 75-mile radius.
“We found a need,” Borash said. “There was no body shop in this little remote town in Southwest Montana. We were the only body shop here. There were a few other shops that had opened and closed over the years, but we kind of took it to the next level and decided to be a full collision shop that could provide any service that customers couldn’t get anywhere else.”
A Day in the Park
Nestled at the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Westgate Auto Body serves the small town with a population of 1,000, along with nearly 12,000 daily visitors passing through.
“We do a full array of collision repair,” Borash explained. “We live in this very remote part of the wilderness of Southwest Montana. We deal with a lot of cold weather, a lot of animals and a lot of people. Our primary business is collision repair. We do dabble in some restoration, but our primary target and our primary customer is collision repair and windshields. We are the only glass facility within a 75-mile radius too.”
Getting parts to a remote part of Montana could have been a challenge for Westgate, impacting their customer satisfaction and cycle times, but fortunately they found a good supplier.
“Getting parts is a big deal. We’re about a hundred miles away from Bozeman, Montana, and 300 miles away from Salt Lake City. Those are the two locations where we can get parts,” Martinez said. “Fortunately, we got ahold of a good supplier that goes out of their way to get parts to us, even though we’re just a small little shop. I can order parts up until five in the evening and they’ll have those parts to us by eight the next morning. That’s been a great thing for us.”
Diverse Client Base
To say that Westgate’s client base is diverse would be an understatement the size of, well, Montana.
“Not only do we get collision work with cars and insurance jobs, we’ve got all kinds of people coming in with rental cars with splash shields that are coming off, tire sensors that are on because of elevation changes, taillights out, bumpers that are dented, bent steps on an RV – we usually drop whatever we are doing to get on those jobs,” Martinez said. “Most of our customers have strict timeframes, like they’ll drop off their vehicle at 8 a.m. and need to be in Glacier National Park by 3 p.m. Hey, if we have to stay late to finish a job, so be it. We’re here to help folks, and that’s what makes us happy.”
“We don’t get a second chance with these people,” Borash explained. “Most come here to get their vehicle repaired and they’re leaving to get back to wherever their next destination is. We pride ourselves in making sure that the vehicle is as perfect as it can be before it leaves our shop, because we don’t have the opportunity to fix any mistakes. As a result, we have a tremendous record and don’t have any comebacks.”
Avoiding mistakes the first time means having well-trained technicians working together. Based on Westgate’s location, it can be difficult to find quality technicians, but the managers at Westgate Auto Body found a solution.
“Because of where we live, access to technicians is pretty hard to come by,” Martinez said. “When I’m not working at my desk, I’m in the shop working on cars. You get to know your technicians like family. You’ve got to really take care of your staff and their health when you do have them because you want them to be happy. If you lose them, you have to think about trying to bring someone into a small town and get situated in such a small community.”
“Every summer, we get the opportunity to get a young technician from high school or a tech school who generally doesn’t have a lot of experience,” Borash said. “We get to train them for the whole summer and show them how to work on these cars. By the end of the summer, I get to tell them, ‘Look, there’s not much that you can’t do.’ It’s a great opportunity to be able to teach these young kids.”
At the start of the pandemic, the team at Westgate brought on a young trade school student who was studying automotive repair.
“When COVID hit, we had a tech student who was doing online schooling and just hated it. He wanted to be in a shop,” Borash said. “So, he came to us with a little bit of knowledge and he was excited to work for us in the summer and learn how to do autobody repair hands-on. I guarantee if he continues his education, he will be much farther ahead than any other students in his class.”
What makes Westgate Auto Body truly unique is the business that is located behind the shop, Adventure Inn Yellowstone.
Borash ran a towing and recovery company for 15 years out of the property behind Westgate Auto Body. When he had the opportunity to change that business into a different one, he decided to go into lodging and create a high-end vacation rental home to share his love of the outdoors with guests who visit West Yellowstone.
“We’re booked up all summer long! We have five rental units in the back that can accommodate up to 22 people,” Borash said. “I believe that a lot of auto body technicians and people who work on cars are very creative. It’s fun to use a lot of that creativity with the Adventure Inn. It all stemmed from my history of working on cars and being creative with cars as well.”
If you’re interested in “talking shop” with fellow auto body professionals on your next road trip to Yellowstone National Park, visit theadventureinnyellowstone.com.