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Dave Olson, Published October 30 2011

Deer, dents keep body shop hopping

Business profile

Chuck’s Body Shop

LUDDEN, N.D. – Chuck German has owned and operated Chuck’s Body Shop here for the past four decades.

For the most part, it’s been a one-man operation. But, as Chuck tells it, he had help along the way.

Q: What year did you start your business, and how old were you?

A: It was 1971. I was 22 and fresh out of the service.

Was there a shop there when you began?

I bought some lots for back taxes for $10. I built a new building and added on over the years.

Do you work by yourself?

I worked a little over 30 years by myself – with some off-and-on part-time help – and I raised a batch of kids. They helped me, too.

But now you have hired help?

I hired a really nice young man (Brent Rall) almost eight years ago. He hit the ground a-running.

It’s been 40 years. Are you ready to retire?

He (Rall) is more than willing to take over the business. He could run it by himself. My wife (Susan, a teacher) and I have talked about it.

What is different about body work these days compared to when you started?

Plastic bumpers – plastic everything – has made it easier. Also, the way cars are assembled now. They make it easier for the people at the factory to assemble them, and consequently it makes it easier for us.

What type of repairs are the most common?

Overall? Deer crashes. Even with the deer population down, we’re still getting ’em. I just finished an estimate about a half-hour ago on a nice pickup job.

Don’t deer whistles on the hood prevent that?

(Laughs). They’ve gone by the wayside. You don’t see those anymore.

Do you do many full-scale restorations?

I get bugged quite a bit for restorations, but they consume so much time, and they really don’t pay off that well.

Own any classic vehicles yourself?

I’ve had a ’56 wagon since 1972 – it’s a nice parade unit – and I have a ’30 Model A two-door sedan. I’ve also got a ’67 Chevy pickup that’s pretty nice.

How do you stay current on what’s new in the body repair business?

I’m a charter member of the North Dakota Auto Body Association and don’t miss many conventions. I meet a lot of shop owners, get a lot of tips from the speakers and the vendors.

How did you mark your 40th anniversary in business this year?

I’ve celebrated past anniversaries. After a big deal was made about the 35th, I said, “No more.” But my wife and oldest daughter said, “We gotta have a 40th.”

So, we rented the Guelph Gymnasium (a former school building turned event center) and put on a supper and dance.

Guelph?

It used to be a town, or village. My wife and I both graduated from there. They closed the school in 1970.

Ludden is pretty small, too.

There are only 20 people in the town. But we stay busy. I think it’s our product and our color matching.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555