Samantha Landon was a terrible teenage driver. So, bad, in fact, that she got to know the people at a Roseville auto body shop so well that they offered her a job. The work environment suited her, and she quickly learned the ins and outs of the body shop business.
A year and a half later, a chance meeting with a guy named Mark would change her life.
“He asked me what I did for a living,” said Samantha. “And I said, ‘Do you know what a body shop is?’”
At that moment, Mark Landon, owner of Chris’ Collision Repair in Grass Valley, knew he’d met his future wife.
Today, the Landons have three children and a thriving business, which Mark took over 10 years ago from his father, Chris Landon, who started Chris’ Collision in 1984.
The business recently relocated from a site off Loma Rica Drive to Idaho Maryland Road, the former Weaver Truck and Auto Sales building. The enormous property, which has nearly new buildings that sat empty for a full five years, was the Landons’ dream location, which they were finally able to buy once the seller opted to split the property in half.
“It’s perfect for us,” said Mark.
“It already had lifts, auto bays and covered parking. It’s clear that the Weavers spared no expense when they built this.”
Chris’ Collision Repair officially opened the doors of its new facility on Sept. 16 and expects to be fully operational in four weeks.
Yet on Wednesday, there were already 36 cars being repaired at the new shop, just a fraction of the 120 to 130 that come through each month. The shop boasts 17 employees, many of whom have been with the company for a lot of years.
“When it comes to equipment, we’ve got two of everything now, so we’re able to work on a lot more cars,” said Mark.
“My business wouldn’t be what it is without my staff. They’re also my friends.”
Mark’s father, Chris, started his 30-year-old business repairing only glass, but thanks to word of mouth (roughly 99 percent of their business was referrals), Chris’ Collision continued to expand and grow to body work and painting. When Mark was in middle school, he would take the bus to his father’s shop, where he would wash cars and answer phones. In high school, he started his own on-site car detailing business.
In recent years, much of the company’s growth can be attributed to contracts or “direct repair programs” with insurance companies, who refer clients to reputable auto body shops for a reduced rate. This arrangement required intensive staff training and certification, as well as an investment in state-of-the-art equipment, which Mark said was worth every penny.
Repairing late-model, collision-damaged vehicles is not what it used to be. Today there are computer-based frame systems capable of returning a vehicle to its original factory specifications. Cars are painted and baked for durability and a high gloss finish. And the complex mechanical components of newer cars often need special equipment to access and repair.
All of the auto body and paint work comes with a lifetime guarantee.
“Computers are a big part of our business now,” said Mark. “Not just in the shop, but cars, too. Some of the new Toyotas have 30 computers in them.”
Looking forward, with the new facility Marc hopes to expand to work on larger vehicles, such as motor homes and trailers, which they now have a bay for.
“I’m really proud of Mark,” said Chris. “He outgrew that shop on Loma Rica. I went to the Weaver grand opening years ago — it’s amazing to see him here now.”
Already Chris’ Collision Repair is seeing an increase in business due to their new, visible location, said Mark.
“It’s been rewarding, taking something my dad started and seeing it grow,” he said.
“We’ve worked hard from the ground up to build a good reputation. We used to work on Weaver’s cars — I never thought we’d be here. It’s been a huge opportunity for us.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.