New body shop seeks to raise the bar

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Brad Newport met Les Barnes when Barnes worked on Newport’s 1969 Mustang hatchback at a Lebanon auto body shop.

So when Newport decided Sweet Home needed a full-service auto body service shop, he knew right where to go, he said.

The two have taken the former headquarters of Sweet Home Emergency Ministries and a mini-storage facility at 4101 Hwy. 20 and turned it into a showroom and 5,000-square-foot full-service shop, Sweet Home Auto Body.

“Sweet Home didn’t have a major collision facility,” said Barnes, who has worked in or owned body and paint shops between Oakridge, Sweet Home and Albany for 30 years as of November. “We thought it would be a good time to have one where you could get excellent work, qualified staff and quality parts.”

Barnes noted that there are other places in Sweet Home where body work is done, such as Jack Wright and Son on old Holley Road. But he and Newport said their new shop has top-of-the-line equipment, including a frame rack with laser imaging; computerized paint mixing; a car lift; a cross-flow paint booth and two detailing bays, which will open in November; plus a private office for insurance company representatives to meet with customers regarding claims. The facility is set up so insurance representatives can run their wireless computers anywhere in either building as they work with customers.

Barnes said he believes the shop is the best-equipped between Foster and Albany.

The showroom in front will hold specialty vehicles including Newport’s Mustang and a Model A pickup, both set up for the drag strip.

“We didn’t start out in a garage like most other shops in Sweet Home,” Newport said. “We set this up to handle Sweet Home (customers). A lot of places you go will tell you they can do it sooner to get your business, then make you wait.”

Barnes said customer service is the name of the game for Sweet Home Auto Body.

“We’re really concerned with doing the best quality work we can do for the least affordable price (to the customer),” he said. “I don’t think people are used to that any more.”

He said he’s worked in “a lot of big shops” where the emphasis is on getting vehicles through as quickly as possible, for the least cost, and squeezing the most out of customers’ dollars.

“We have the small-town mentality,” he said. “We know people around here. We want to do quality work so people will be happy. The great big shops are all about the dollar.

“I would not fix a car or do anything to a car for anyone that I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my wife or daughter in and sending them down the freeway.”

Newport said the emphasis of the shop will be on insurance work, though it will accept specialty projects as they come in.

“Everybody has regular cars and most people don’t have specialty cars,” he said. “That’s why we’re focusing on regular insurance work.”

He said he has spent “a lot of money” to get the shop set up correctly to start with and he’s confident it will prosper in Sweet Home.

“Insurance company representatives who have come by said it’s one of the nicest shops in the area,” Newport said. Barnes said he believes the shop is the best-equipped between Sweet Home and Albany.

“Some people say money is not well spent in Sweet Home but to me that’s where I grew up,” Newport said. “I’m taking a chance on Sweet Home and I hope Sweet Home takes a chance on us.”