|Carl’s Auto Body still going strong after 50 years
The Schollman family – Carl, Mary, Bruce, David, Helen, and Elizabeth – along with Lori and Kelly Smith (far left) celebrate at the 50-year anniversary party for Carl’s Auto Body on Aug. 3 in Cotati. Robert Grant
Fifty years is an impressively long time for any business, especially for a family-owned, local business. One could expect others to ask advice for the secret to a long and successful run from such a long-time business owner.
If you were to ask Carl Schollmann, of Carl’s Auto Body Shop, or his son and daughter-in-law, Bruce and Helen, they would tell you there is no secret. They simply keep working and just so happen to stay busy enough to not really notice the time fly by. Apparently, if you stay focused and busy enough, the years will build upon themselves without you ever noticing.
“You don’t even really think about it,” said Bruce of the 50-year anniversary of Carl’s Auto Body, which took place with a large party this past Saturday, Aug. 3. “You’re busy just working so hard that time just goes by so fast.”
He admitted the 50th seemed to sneak up on him, too. According to Bruce, the current owner of Carl’s Auto Body, his wife had mentioned and planned the 50th celebration at least six months ago, but the time still managed to rush past him and, before he knew it, was on him and the shop.
Carl Schollmann teasingly said he came to Cotati in 1938 – which, of course, was not the year he moved, but rather the year he was born. Twenty-five years later, after a brief time working in Marin, Schollmann opened shop in what has now become downtown, just behind Cotati Shoe Repair. That year, especially with Cotati becoming an incorporated city, was good for his business, said Schollmann.
“Guys on the council would go to auction and buy dump trucks…” said Schollmann, “I would repaint all that old stuff for them.”
Schollmann eventually moved his shop just down the road, among the fields and sparse farmhouses beyond the freeway, and there the shop still remains.
Bruce Schollmann has worked beside his father in the family shop since he was in high school, helping out part-time and worked his way up from straightening out dents to making smashed, collision repairs. He and his wife Helen met in the mid 90s and took over the shop in 2005.
According to their webpage, the couple run the shop with the intent of keeping its small-town business feel, while also bringing in new updates and changes and making sure you know, “…when you come to Carl’s, you’re not just a number, you’re one of the family.”
One of the changes the shop has seen since the couple’s takeover is going green in 2009, such as using only PPG water-based paint. According to Bruce, the decision was to not only help the environment, but also to make the workplace safer for the mechanics.
The 50th anniversary celebration took place at the auto body’s Pine Lane location, their field turned into a parking lot and garage transformed into a picnic area, cars cleared away to make room for table-clothed tables. Other members of the Schollmann family came to help the business and served food, drinks and helped with children’s activities. There was a DJ playing oldies and a barbeque that wafted the warm smell of burgers.
Also present at the celebration was a raffle that included coupons and discounts for winners. The largest prize, though, a voucher for $500 at the shop, was saved to be drawn on Monday at Cotati City Hall. City Manager Dianne Thompson drew long-time customer of the body shop John Aguiar as the winner.
“I think it feels great, anybody should be proud of this,” said Helen Schollmann of the shop making it to its 50-year-mark.
Carl’s Auto Body Shop is located at 8755 Pine Lane in Cotati and can also be visited at www.carlsbodyshopcotati.com.