Keith Smith grew tired of being a number.
Nearly seven years ago, he left the corporate world to take over Gunn’s Body Shop when former owner Vickie Gunn retired. Gunn’s father, Marvin, started the business in 1959.
Smith stuck with the original name though body work on a car represents just a portion of business. “We’re really a collision center,” he said.
Auto painting, air conditioning repair, oil, lube and filter changes wheel alignments, windshield repair and general maintenance can all be completed by Gunn’s Body Shop.
Sometimes Smith has to clear up what Gunn’s Body Shop is not. No treadmills and barbells here — Gunn’s Body Shop is not a gym. Nor does it sell firearms.
“I end up explaining that to a fair amount of people,” Smith said.
Anyone without a car experiences stress and inconvenience. Smith strives to remove as much of that as possible.
“When people are involved in an accident, what’s usually their second largest purchase is torn up,” he said. “They’re confused. They don’t know which direction to go. We help maneuver them through the process and help get their car back to them in pre-loss condition.”
Customers receive multiple greetings when they arrive, the first often by Izzy, the Smiths’ 90-pound black lab. Keith’s wife, Angie, not only knows many of the customers, she’s likely to ask you about that vacation you went on that you mentioned during a previous visit.
“Angie has this photographic memory,” Keith said. “She loves the personal side of working with the public.”
The Smiths retained the core staff of technicians when they took over for Vickie Gunn. When many businesses closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, Gunn’s Body Shop did not, as it was deemed an essential business. Still, they are challenged by the labor shortage and the constantly evolving technology in today’s cars that forces frequent equipment upgrades.
Millennials in this instant gratification age want their cars returned quickly. Doing the job right takes time.
“It takes 20 seconds to mess your car up, but you have to understand it can sometimes take three to six weeks to get your car right again,” Smith said.
While the pandemic didn’t force Gunn’s Body Shop to close, it did lead to supply chain issues that affect how long it takes to service a vehicle. The trucking industry has been hit particularly hard.
“Parts are a nightmare right now — trying to get stuff in,” Smith said. “We try to get everything we need identified early and upfront.”
Hiring technicians with the right work ethic is important, too.
“We’re looking at training younger people in our process and philosophy of how we work with the customer and go about fixing the car,” Smith said. “Accuracy and pride go into it. We try to do the best job we can.”
The Smiths met in Richmond and moved to Gloucester when they took over the shop in 2014. They feel welcome in their adopted community.
“It’s neat being on Main Street; you never know who is going to pop in the door,” Smith said. “They don’t know if it’s a body shop or a workout facility or a gun shop. We are part of the Village so tourists are always stopping in and asking what to do while they are here. We’re almost like an information center, too. “
Gunn’s Body Shop donates to the Gloucester Mathews Care Clinic; Vickie Gunn has a role on its board. They support the Gloucester Humane Society because of their love for pets.
Call 804-693-3350 to schedule an appointment with Gunn’s Body Shop or just stop by!
Gunn’s Body Shop at 6622 Main Street is open on weekdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.