Stan Craven builds bodies in a couple of ways. Not only does his CARSTAR Chicago 38th St. shop achieve strongly satisfied customer rankings and reviews from drivers pleased with the body work done on their vehicles, but he frequently wins awards in body building competitions for his muscular physique.
That spirit of cooperation and loyalty continues to this day as 38th Street leverages a powerful pattern of family connections throughout the operation. Technicians are mostly recruited from the ranks of relatives of existing staff members, and family ties have long steered Stan throughout his path to becoming a successful shop owner.
“It’s basically been internal,” says Bambi of the hiring process utilized to build the shop’s roster of 11 competent and customer service-oriented technicians and support personnel. “They’ll say, ‘My brother needs a job,’ and we’ll say, ‘Okay,’” she explains, “and we haven’t had any issues with any of our employees.”
A key qualification, however, is that all the new hires have to be amendable to taking part in 38th Street’s ambitious array of continuous training and educational courses.
“We’re in a highly Hispanic neighborhood, and if they know Spanish it’s a huge plus,” says Bambi. “It’s important that I have bilingual people on my staff.”
The shop’s CCC One estimating system has programs in Spanish, and “CARSTAR University has increased the amount of Spanish-speaking classes” that are available. “The CARSTAR family has been a great help — they give us advice about everything” necessary to obtain top performance, she says.
ASE certifications are also facilitated by educational programs from I-CAR, AAMS and several vendors. “We have companies that will come in and show us about bumper repair, welding and paint,” she points out. “BASF, where we get our paint from, is great about coming in and doing classes.”
|AT A GLANCE|
CARSTAR Chicago 38th Street
Previously known as Supreme Auto Body, Stan decided to become a part of CARSTAR in July of last year “based on the company’s reputation and the vast amount of training and services offered,” he says.
“We chose to join CARSTAR because of the strong brand recognition in Chicago,” Stan elaborates, also citing the MSO’s EDGE Performance Groups program and “the benefits of following a very sequential method to achieving growth and an efficient operation. I believe CARSTAR will help me take my business to another level, eventually allowing us to expand our business.”
Stan’s ever-expanding commitment to serving the public carries a lot of weight. “We market to our community by giving back to the community,” he says. As part of its sponsorship of the Joliet Pink Heels, the shop painted a firetruck and trailer pink at no charge. Other sponsorships and fundraising assistance is donated to school, church and civic groups.
A service dog was obtained for a disabled veteran, and support was presented to a canine rescue organization. “Our workers also volunteer their time in helping,” Stan reports.
Media attention has been garnered through a unique affiliation with acclaimed sculptor Jeffery Breslow, who stopped by the facility while searching for painting assistance “and was impressed with what he saw.”
The shop has now painted nearly 40 of Breslow’s works to-date. The pieces show up at the shop as raw steel bent into the unusual shapes that Breslow incorporates into his designs; the paint colors are specifically selected by Breslow and applied by the shop’s staff.
Breslow describes his work as “contemporary abstract sculptures created as conversations between human creativity and the natural world.” Some of the artwork was placed on display at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), amounting to the largest indoor/outdoor gallery showing that the landmark structure has ever conducted.
“Going into his shop is inspiring to me,” says Stan, reflecting on his fascination with Breslow’s creative expertise and the fact that “I get to watch it from the ground-up. Seeing what goes into it, and seeing how it starts from scratch, and knowing that every piece is his imagination, and how he has a vision with every single piece that he puts on — that’s what inspires me about it.”
Prior to becoming involved with the auto repair industry Stan had been working as general manager at two McDonald’s restaurant franchises when a new family-induced career opportunity came calling, resulting in a position with Collision Revision, a chain consisting of a dozen Chicagoland body shops operated by the father-son team of Roger and R.J. D’Orazio.
“Our brother, Richard Craven, had been working at Collision Revision for about 15 years, and he brought Stan in,” Bambi recounts. Stan embraced I-CAR classes and on-the-job training in the pursuit of excellence. “It was a lot of hands-on — that’s how he learned.”
His knowledge and troubleshooting ability propelled him into the company’s general manager slot. “If they had a problem shop they would send him to that shop to fix it; they kept moving him around,” says Bambi.
“Roger and R.J. D’Orazio have been there to help lead me into the right direction,” says Stan. “The D’Orazio family has gone up and beyond to help me succeed in the business and in life in general.”
When the D’Orazio family offered Stan the chance to purchase a shop of his own, he assumed the helm of Cal’s Collision when the previous proprietor retired, renaming it Supreme Auto Body until signing on with CARSTAR.
“Some of our technicians have been at this location for about 20 years,” Stan says. These veterans of Cal’s essentially came along with the sale to Stan. “It was up to us to decide whether to keep them or not,” and the obvious decision was in the affirmative.
“We have maintained a team of honest trustworthy employees to guarantee that our customers’ vehicles are handled with care,” says Stan, noting that in addition to his sister Bambi the team includes their cousin Paula and nephew Gavin.
“I came in to help out Stan by answering the phone,” says Bambi, “and didn’t think I’d end up running the place.” She still commutes 50 miles each way to 38th Street — a trip that can take up to two hours in Chicagoland’s congested traffic.
Bambi’s journey into a shop management role has her striving to learn as much as she can about the technical side of collision repair. “I’ll sit and watch training videos,” she says. “I’ll actually go home at night and educate myself.”
Ensuring that five-star customer service is delivered is a crucial aspect of Bambi’s dedication to the business, especially when Spanish-speaking patrons have questions or concerns about their insurance coverage and what it entails.
Bambi will join the customer on a speaker phone in her office to assist in resolving any misunderstandings, including “educating them in a polite manner” if the insurance policy details are not to the customer’s anticipated outcome.
In dealing with insurers, “We go strictly by what they want us to do,” she says, stressing that the shop routinely applies significant efforts toward guaranteeing that their customers come away highly satisfied with the transaction. “We make sure they get their rental cars. We’ll take them to get the rental or we’ll deliver the rental to them.”
“We’re a family owned and operated shop that will go the extra mile to make sure our customers will have a smooth-as-possible repair process,” says Stan. “We are a company that cares about the quality of our repairs to ensure a happy customer.”