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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Auto Body CATEGORY

Phil Chadd is a 41-year veteran of the automotive industry and owner of Phil’s Auto Body, a Diamond Certified company since 2008. He can be reached at (831) 462-1593 or by email.

Phil Chadd

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Phil Chadd: Win-Win

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA CRUZ — When he returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam, Phil Chadd was in the market for a new vehicle and in search of a renewed sense of direction. He never thought, however, that by finding the first, the second would shortly follow. “My friend’s father owned a local body shop, and he had a motorcycle for sale that I was interested in buying,” he remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but I did have some experience working on cars, so I offered to work for him to pay for the bike. It ended up being a true win-win situation—not only did I get a motorcycle, I also found a career!”

After undergoing an initial apprenticeship, Phil spent the next two decades working for various independent shops and dealers before opening his own body shop in 1993. Today, as owner of Phil’s Auto Body, he says he enjoys the autonomy that comes with being his own boss, as well as his daily interactions with customers. “One of the things about working for dealerships is they’re open 364 days a year, whereas working for yourself offers a measure of freedom when it comes to scheduling. In addition to making my own hours, I also enjoy meeting new people and hearing the bizarre stories of how their cars ended up here.”

A 40-year resident of Santa Cruz (where he lives with his wife, Karen), Phil says he appreciates the region’s temperate weather and coastal orientation. “With an average temperature of 65 to 75 degrees, you can’t beat the weather here. Also, as a former marine biology major, I appreciate the beauty of our coast and the fact that it’s a national marine sanctuary.”

Outside of work, Phil enjoys spending time with his family (he’s a father of two and grandfather of four), playing golf, fishing in the Monterey Bay and riding his Harley Davidson. He and his wife are also avid NASCAR fans, and they can typically be found at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on race day. “We’ve been going there to watch races since it first opened 15 years ago,” he says. “We actually have our own motorhome spot right inside Turn 2!”

In his life and career, Phil espouses the importance of living in the moment. “Enjoy the day, because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring you,” he asserts. “I’ve found that a lot of people have regrets because they held back and didn’t live enough in the moment. I don’t go that route—I keep it going.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Phil says he’d head out on an extended road trip. “I’d fire up the motorhome and chase the NASCAR boys around a bit. As racing fans, I think that would be a fun way for me and my wife to see some more of the country.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite band?
A: The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd—all the bands I listened to growing up in the ’60s.

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1947 Chevrolet Business Coupe.

Q: If you could drive any car, what would you choose?
A: Besides the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air I used to have, probably the new Corvette ZR1.

Q: Ever had a conversation with a famous person?
A: Dick Smothers of the Smothers Brothers brought his car in when I was managing a Mercedes-Benz body shop.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Here at the shop, I usually listen to KPIG, a local station that plays an eclectic mix of blues, country and rock.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Matchbox cars, as well as hats, t-shirts and other memorabilia from the NASCAR races I attend.

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How to Protect Your Vehicle’s Paint Job

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SANTA CRUZ — To protect your vehicle’s paint from rust and other forms of corrosion, it’s best to take a preventative approach to cleaning and maintenance. If you’re aware of common sources of corrosion and know how to handle them,… Read more

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Video: Caring For Your Car’s Appearance

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SANTA CRUZ — Host, Sarah Rutan: In order to get the most out of your vehicle's paint job, its important to know how to care… Read more

Tom Trago is a 38-year veteran of the automotive industry and owner of Anchor Auto Body, a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at (408) 782-4949 or by email.

Tom Trago

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Tom Trago: Anchor Aweigh

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SUNNYVALE — Like many automotive professionals, Tom Trago’s relationship with cars began with an early interest and gradually grew into something bigger. “Cars have always been a part of my life,” he affirms. “I started taking auto mechanic classes in high school, worked part-time doing detail work through college and eventually made the decision to pursue it as a full-time job.”

About 20 years into his career, Tom had an opportunity to take things to the next level by advancing from employee to owner. “Over the years, I’d managed a couple of shops with the hope of earning a stake in the business, but nothing ever panned out,” he recounts. “Within two years of being at Anchor Auto Body, the owner asked if I’d be interested in taking over after he retired, and I said yes.”

After 11 years as owner of Anchor Auto Body, Tom has no regrets about his decision. “It’s definitely been a challenge, but I like challenges. Plus, I’m very passionate about what I do. I get a lot of satisfaction from putting smiles on our customers’ faces after they see what we’ve been able to achieve with their vehicles.”

A resident of San Jose (where he lives with his wife and business partner, Betsy), Tom says he appreciates the variety of opportunities to be found in the Bay Area. “Besides an endless number of things to see and do, there’s an incredible wealth of resources and opportunities for local businesses to grow and prosper.”

With two grown children and two young grandchildren, much of Tom’s time outside of work is devoted to family. He also likes to stay in shape, whether by working out at the gym or hiking and biking on local nature trails. When he’s not being physically active, he enjoys cultivating his creative side by reading books and watching movies.

In regard to his career, Tom espouses the importance of continuous improvement. “We’re always trying to improve upon what we’re doing, whether it’s revamping our employee training or purchasing new equipment,” he explains. “By continually reviewing and rethinking our standard operating procedures, we’re able to stay ahead of the curve and keep the quality high for our customers.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Tom says he’d take time to get a little perspective before deciding what to do next. “The first thing I’d do is just take a couple days to reflect. After that, I’d move on to the next thing, whatever that may be. I’d probably pick up a new hobby or two, just to keep myself busy.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1964 Volkswagen Beetle.

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco 49ers.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas—I like getting together with family, catching up and having a good time.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Kettle chips.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: Matchbox cars.

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How to Polish Out a Minor Scratch on Your Car

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SUNNYVALE — If your car’s exterior gets scratched, you may think the only solution is to repaint the area. However, when it comes to minor surface scratches, most can simply be polished out. An easy way to determine if a… Read more

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Video: How to Polish Out a Scratch on Your Car

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SUNNYVALE — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you've got an unsightly scratch on your car, getting rid of it may be easier than you think. Today we’re… Read more

Snehal Shah is a 14-year veteran of the automotive industry and owner of Auto Techies, a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (510) 397-8966 or by email.

Snehal Shah

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Snehal Shah: High Gear

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

FREMONT — Even though Snehal Shah’s first career was in the high-tech industry, his passion has always been cars, so when an opportunity arose for him to get involved in the automotive field, he shifted things into high gear. “I was working with Fortune 500 companies in the technology sector, doing everything from product development to marketing,” he explains. “I’d always had a desire to work in auto repair, and I was keeping an eye out for an opportunity to purchase a business. When I came across Auto Techies, it just seemed like a great fit, so I decided to go for it.”

Today, Snehal says he enjoys the freedom that comes from running his own business. “I like having control over the entire operation. In my previous career, I had to navigate a lot of politics just to get anything done, so it’s nice being able to manage every aspect myself.”

Born in India, Snehal came to the United States at an early age and was raised in Southern California before making his way to the Bay Area. Today, as a resident of San Ramon, he says he appreciates the comparative lack of traffic. “In Southern California, there’s traffic pretty much 20 hours a day due to the constant growth and freeway construction. We have our share of traffic here, but overall, it’s a lot easier to get around.” While Snehal says his business accounts for the bulk of his schedule, when he’s able to get away, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Bhavna, and their son, Abinash, who is currently attending college.

In regard to his professional career, Snehal emphasizes the importance of customer education. “Obviously, few customers have a working knowledge of auto repair, so we try to be sensitive to that and clearly explain things to them,” he says. “To us, automotive work isn’t rocket science, it’s our everyday job, so it’s just a matter of breaking things down in such a way that the customer can understand.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Snehal says he’d take up a new hobby. “These days, I don’t have time for much besides my business, so I’d probably cultivate some of my interests. I love travelling and wildlife photography, so maybe I’d go to Africa and take pictures of the animals.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Summer—I enjoy the long days and cool evenings.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: The 4th of July, because of the outdoor activities like barbequing and watching fireworks.

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1970 Buick LeSabre, which was a family hand-me-down.

Q: What’s your dream car?
A: Any kind of Ferrari.

Q: Who’s the best James Bond?
A: It’s a toss-up between Roger Moore and Sean Connery. However, I would say the best Bond movie is “Casino Royale.”

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How to Jumpstart Your Car

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FREMONT — If you own a car, chances are you’ll need to jumpstart its engine at some point. Before attempting this, however, it’s important to know the proper procedure, as well as critical safety precautions. The most important thing to remember when… Read more

Determining the Nature of Auto Paint Damage

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FREMONT — When it comes to faded or otherwise damaged auto paint, most vehicle owners assume it’s an easy fix. In some cases, however, what appears to be minor paint damage is actually something more complex: damage to the clear… Read more

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Video: How to Jumpstart Your Car

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FREMONT – Host, Sarah Rutan: Most vehicle owners keep a pair of jumper cables in the trunk for use in the event of a dead battery, but the… Read more

Tristin Wurzbach is general manager of B2 Perfection Auto Body, a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (408) 800-1693 or by email.

Tristin Wurzbach

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Tristin Wurzbach: A Positive Transition

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SUNNYVALE — Tristin Wurzbach began his professional career working in auto insurance, but he ultimately found greater fulfillment in the auto body field. “Following college, I got a job with GEICO as a claims adjuster, where I learned about estimating, collision damage and other aspects related to auto body,” he explains. “However, as time went on, I became less enthusiastic about the work environment at GEICO. Fortunately, I found an opportunity to get out of the insurance side of things and go to work for an auto body shop, which was much more to my liking.”

Today, as general manager of B2 Perfection Auto Body, Tristin explains why he prefers his current livelihood to his prior career in auto insurance. “The difference between auto body and auto insurance is basically one of positive versus negative. Since the insurance company’s motivation is to spend as little money as possible, their default is to say ‘no’ whenever possible. In contrast, an auto body shop’s goal is to help customers get everything covered, which is why they’re more about saying ‘yes.’ Consequently, auto body provides a more positive work environment, so it has been a really good transition for me.”

A resident of Newark (where he lives with his wife, Amy, and their daughter), Tristin expresses his appreciation for life in the Bay Area. “The best thing about living here is all the opportunity. There’s so much to do, from outdoor activities to different types of food and entertainment. There’s a reason it’s such a hot spot for people to visit and relocate.”

Outside of work, Tristin likes taking advantage of all the opportunities the Bay Area has to offer. “I’m an avid skier and enjoy hitting the slopes at Tahoe with my friends and co-workers,” he says. “During the summer, I like going to the beach and wine tasting in Napa. Other than that, I enjoy spending time with my family, taking my dogs on walks and playing video games.”

In his life and career, Tristin believes in the value of over-performing. “I believe that if you continually outperform your pay, one day, your pay will outperform you,” he says. “In work, this means going above and beyond your job description and pay grade—one day that will reward you. It’s the same with your personal life. My wife and I recently had a baby, and I help as much as I can because I believe it’ll reward our relationship, resulting in a stronger bond and a better marriage.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Tristin says he’d start small. “I would probably take a week off just to relax and regenerate. After that, I’d probably do some light traveling—maybe spend some time in Napa and other somewhat local areas. Eventually, I’d like to go to Europe and other parts of the world, but I think I’d build up to that by doing some smaller stuff first.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The Golden State Warriors.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: What kinds of music do you like?
A: Rock and hip-hop.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Ip Man.” It’s based on the life of the martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee.

Q: What’s your favorite type of food?
A: Ramen.

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Preventing Auto Paint Damage

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SUNNYVALE — An often-overlooked cause of auto paint damage is natural elements like bird droppings and tree sap. If not cleaned off promptly, these corrosive elements can leave permanent marks, especially during summer, when high temperatures can cause them to bake… Read more

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Video: Preventing Auto Paint Damage

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SUNNYVALE — Host, Sarah Rutan: To avoid permanent damage to your vehicle’s paint, you’ll need to be proactive about cleaning off elements like tree sap and bird… Read more

Ilya Rosenthal is a 26-year veteran of the automotive industry and manager of Luxurati – California Auto Body & Repair & Smog, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (650) 273-5406 or by email.

Ilya Rosenthal

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Ilya Rosenthal: Speaking the Language

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN MATEO — When Ilya Rosenthal first immigrated to the United States, he wasn’t yet fluent in English, but he had no problem speaking the language of auto repair. “I came to the U.S. from Russia in 1989, when I was 20 years old,” he remembers. “I’d previously worked at an auto body shop and wanted to stay in the field, so I took a job at a gas station. I didn’t speak much English, but I knew cars, so it wasn’t long before I was promoted from pumping gas to working in the service garage.”

Eventually, Ilya opened his own auto repair shop, but that was just the beginning of his professional development. “After I’d been running my shop for a while, my customers told me I should do body work, too. I thought, ‘Why not?’ and started taking auto body classes. Later, I added smog inspections, and now we’re one of the few automotive shops that handle repairs, body work, and smog.”

Today, as manager of Luxurati – California Auto Body & Repair & Smog, Ilya says his favorite part of his job is taking care of his customers. “I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing my customers’ car problems and getting them back on the road. It’s very important to me that my customers leave happy, so I always make sure that happens.”

A resident of San Mateo (where he lives with his wife, Elena), Ilya cites the city’s central proximity as a benefit for his business. “One good thing about operating out of San Mateo is we get customers all the way from San Jose to San Francisco. We used to be in San Jose, but we moved here eight years ago and it has continued to go very well for us.”

Outside of work, Ilya enjoys spending time with family. “We’re very family-oriented people,” he affirms. “Most of my family is here in the Bay Area, including my parents, my sister and my older children, most of whom have moved out and are living on their own. We’re always getting together for birthdays and holidays.” Additionally, when the opportunity arises, Ilya enjoys fishing. “I don’t have a lot of time for fishing these days, but whenever I get a chance, I enjoy getting out on the water and baiting my hook for some halibut.”

In regard to his professional career, Ilya believes that success in business depends on a combination of honesty and knowledge. “When it comes to serving customers, honesty is number one, but it’s also important to do the job right,” he explains. “That’s why I make sure everyone who works for me has the right skills and knowledge but also cares about our customers and puts their interests first.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Ilya says he’d pass his shop to his employees. “If I had enough money, I would leave my business to the guys who work for me. Some of them have been with me for more than 20 years, so there’s a lot of loyalty there, and giving them my shop would be a way to show my appreciation for their years of service and partnership.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Both—I like to stay up late and wake up early.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: New Year’s Day. It’s the biggest holiday in Russia.

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Tea.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Miniature car models.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Ice cream.

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A Simple Way to Eliminate Car Odors

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SAN MATEO — From pets to smoke and even fast food, odors can be surprisingly hard to remove from a car’s interior. However, before you take your vehicle to a professional cleaner, you should first try a simple DIY remedy:… Read more

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Video: An Easy Way to Remove Car Odors

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SAN MATEO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’ve been battling a stubborn odor inside your car, you’ll want to know about a simple DIY solution. Today… Read more

Pete Hurwicz is owner of Silicon Valley Auto Body & Tow, a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (408) 747-0500 or by email.

Pete Hurwicz

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Pete Hurwicz: From Dealership to Ownership

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SUNNYVALE — While many automotive professionals start out by working for a family-owned or independent business, Pete Hurwicz received a more formal industry education…but not before working his way up from the ground level. “While in college, I got a summer job parking cars at a local dealership,” he explains. “Over time, I gradually moved up through the ranks, learning about new aspects of the industry as I went. After 12 years working for multiple dealerships, I had been everything from a warranty clerk to an assistant service manager. Finally, I became a body shop manager, which is how I ended up in this field.”

Today, 30 years after founding Silicon Valley Auto Body & Tow, Pete credits much of his company’s success to the comprehensive instruction he received in the dealership setting. “From the hands-on work to the business and customer service side, working for various dealerships allowed me to develop a well-rounded set of skills, which ultimately gave me the confidence to step up and open my own shop.”

Originally from Boston, Pete moved to Los Angeles as a teenager before later relocating to the Bay Area, where he currently resides with his wife, Linda. Between working in Sunnyvale and living in Morgan Hill, Pete says he enjoys the best of both worlds. “I appreciate Sunnyvale for its business climate, whereas the Morgan Hill area is still somewhat rural, so you get more of a country feel. The only issue is having to commute between the two!”

Outside of work, Pete enjoys a variety of hobbies, from riding his Harley-Davidson to attending sporting events. “I’m a season ticket holder for the San Francisco Giants and the San Jose Sharks, and I recently became a 49ers season ticket holder as well, so you might say I’m somewhat of a sports fan,” he laughs. In addition to his active interests, Pete enjoys simple things like working in his yard and hanging out with his French Bulldog, Louie.

In his life and career, Pete lives by a quote passed down from his father. “My dad used to say, ‘Be big in little ways,’ which is something I apply daily in my professional life,” he says. “When it comes to long-term customer satisfaction, it’s often the little details that make the biggest difference. You don’t always have to be a hero, you just have to take care of your customers’ needs, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Pete says he would set sail for an extended trip. “I have a fantasy of getting on a sailboat and sailing around the world. However, given my age and lack of qualifications, that’s probably not going to happen, so instead I’d do the next best thing and go on a cruise!”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s the best movie of all time?
A: The Godfather.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Chips and salsa.

Q: Did you play any sports in high school?
A: I was a wrestler.

Q: What was your first concert?
A: When I was in high school, I saw Jimi Hendrix play at The Forum in Los Angeles.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Over easy.

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Auto Insurance Claims: To File or Not to File?

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SUNNYVALE — Following a car accident, vehicle owners often fear that their insurance rates will go up if they file a claim. While this may or may not be the case for your accident, there are several factors to consider… Read more

Manuel Garcia is a lifetime veteran of the automotive industry and owner of George McGill’s Body Shop, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (510) 224-5918 or by email.

Manuel Garcia

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Manuel Garcia: Once Upon a Time in Portugal

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN LORENZO — Growing up in Portugal, Manuel Garcia got an especially early start in the auto body repair industry. “I got my first automotive job 53 years ago, at the age of 12,” he says. “My family didn’t even own a car—few people did in those days—but I wanted to get into a profession and thought automotive repair would be a good career to pursue.” According to Manuel, his adolescent employment wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in his particular setting. “Back then, it wasn’t unusual for a 12-year-old to have a full-time job…it was just a different time and place.”

Later, Manuel came to the United States, where he continued to work in the auto body industry. Eventually, he joined the team at George McGill’s Body Shop, Inc., and in 2000, he took over ownership of the business with his partner, Luis Toste. Today, after all his years in the industry, Manuel says the most valuable thing he’s learned is the importance of honesty. “When you’re honest and deliver what you promise, that creates a bond between you and your customers. Plus, as a member of the San Leandro community, I see my customers all over town, so it feels good knowing I can go anywhere and not have to worry about running into a disgruntled former client.”

Outside of work, Manuel spends the bulk of his time with his family, which consists of his wife, Maria, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. “Pretty much all of my free time is dedicated to my family,” he affirms. “I enjoy going fishing, camping, and just getting together with my kids and grandkids. I also like to travel. In addition to going to Europe every year, I own a place in the Azores Islands, where Maria and I like to go to relax when we get a chance.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Manuel says he’ll spend more time pursuing the pastimes he currently enjoys. “I probably won’t do anything much different from what I do now—just more fishing, camping, traveling and, of course, relaxing.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: A night owl.

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: S.L. Benfica, Portugal’s premiere football [soccer] team. Here in the U.S., I like the Golden State Warriors.

Q: What was your first car?
A: A ’74 Ford Pinto station wagon.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Thanksgiving—the whole family gets together, but it’s not a commercial holiday like Christmas.

Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: My health.

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What to Do After an Auto Collision

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SAN LORENZO — Following a minor collision, there are four steps you should take to ensure both physical safety and legal protection: 1. Remove any traffic obstructions. After safely pulling to the side of the road, turn off the ignition and turn… Read more

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Video: What to do After an Auto Collision

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SAN LORENZO — Host, Sarah Rutan: In the event of an auto collision, it’s important to know what steps to take immediately after the fact. To learn more,… Read more

Nana Sarkisian is owner of Cal Auto Body, a Diamond Certified company since 2011. She can be reached at (650) 273-5401 or by email.

Nana Sarkisian

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Nana Sarkisian: A Drive to Succeed

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

COLMA – If you were talking to Cal Auto Body owner Nana Sarkisian, you might be surprised to learn there was a point in her adult life when she wasn’t even legally able to drive a car. Recently married and a new mother, Nana’s first few years living in the United States after leaving her home country of Armenia were, as she describes, a trying time. “For a while I felt like I was going one step forward and two steps backward in my life. As a stay-at-home mom who didn’t speak much English or even have a driver’s license, I felt fairly isolated.” This situation was especially challenging for someone as independent as Nana, who by age 21 had earned her master’s degree in industrial engineering, a field in which she worked for four years prior to coming to America. Fortunately, her circumstances gradually improved. “Eventually, my mom came over to help with things, which gave me a little more freedom to get myself educated in English, get a driver’s license and basically feel human again.”

Nana’s then-husband had spent several years working in the auto repair industry in various capacities until they both decided it was time to shift things into high gear. “In 2001, we bought an existing auto shop and changed the name to Cal Auto Body,” she remembers. Eager to jump back into the work world, Nana took an active role in running the shop. “I was in charge of the customer service, administration and accounting, while my husband handled the estimating and parts ordering.” However, as time went by, Nana became increasingly immersed in the more hands-on aspects of the shop’s business. “I ended up doing a lot more on the repair side, writing estimates and that sort of thing.”

In fact, Nana’s work at Cal Auto Body wasn’t her first exposure to the world of auto repair. “When I was a young girl, my dad used to spend all day in the garage and wouldn’t come out from underneath his car,” she remembers. “I would bring him lunch and he’d hand me a part to clean or have me help him with something. I’d start asking him questions about what he was doing, until he eventually got tired of all the questioning and kicked me out!”

In 2008, Nana took the helm as sole owner and operator of Cal Auto Body. Since that time, she has employed her accumulated experience and professional acumen to improve the business, taking advantage of promotional outlets like social media and consumer-friendly organizations. “Over the last five years, not only have we been able to increase our business, we’ve been able to maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau,” she says. The shop’s Diamond Certified status further indicates its dedication to customer satisfaction.

Outside of work, Nana engages in a variety of hobbies and pastimes. “I do a lot of oil painting,” she says. “I’m always amazed at the things that come out of my head when I’m painting—very abstract stuff.” Nana also says that whenever it’s sunny, she’s likely to be at the beach. “I think in my previous life I was a fish,” she laughs. “The sand, the water, the shells, the smell of the seaweed—I love anything that’s connected to the sea. Even food…seafood is my favorite!” In addition, Nana likes to keep up with her daughter, Maria, a chemistry student at Skyline College in San Bruno. “She’s eventually hoping to transfer to UC Berkeley or UC Davis and study molecular toxicology. She’s a real smart cookie and I’m very proud of her.”

Looking back, Nana says the expression “givers gain” has proven to be true throughout her life and career. “You give, you receive; you don’t give, you don’t receive. It’s actually very interesting how this happens in auto body work. We always take care of customers and try to give them more than they expect. In return, they give us compliments and refer their friends to us. So, I think this philosophy of giving has really been a big part of our success.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A ’94 Lincoln Continental. My family expected me to crash whatever car I had, so they gave me one that nobody cared about!

Q: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
A: A 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: Barracuda Sushi in San Francisco.

Q: Are you a dog or cat person?
A: I’m totally a dog person, but guess what? We have a cat!

Q: Do you have any nicknames?
A: Nana is my nickname. My real name is Gayané. Everybody calls me Nana because it’s just easier to pronounce.

Q: If you were doing karaoke, what song would you sing?
A: I’d sing two songs, both by The Beatles: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Yesterday.”

Q: If someone was making a movie about your life, which actress would you choose to play you?
A: Sandra Bullock.

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What to do in the Event of an Auto Collision

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COLMA — A car accident can be a jolting experience, even if it’s just a minor collision, which is why drivers sometimes forget what to do next. Besides confirming the safety of all passengers involved, there are a couple crucial steps… Read more

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Video: Action Plan After An Accident

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COLMA — Host, Sarah Rutan: In an accident, its important to stay calm and have a plan of action. So, today we’re in Colma with Diamond… Read more

Rich Lezcano is CEO of Simply Superior Auto Body, a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (925) 398-3605 or by email.

Rich Lezcano

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Rich Lezcano: An Unexpected Calling

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CONCORD — While many automotive professionals get into the industry with full intent, for Rich Lezcano, it was anything but expected. It all started when he was a college student working at a bicycle shop in Lafayette. “One morning, a man came in who was having a problem with his shifters,” he recounts. “After looking at the bike, I told him he’d have to leave it and come back later that afternoon to pick it up. However, since he was set on going for a ride right then, I made a quick temporary adjustment and sent him on his way.”

Thinking nothing of the interaction, Rich was completely surprised by what happened next. “Later that day, the man returned to the store and invited me to have dinner with him. It turned out he was the owner of a local auto body shop. He was impressed with how I’d handled the situation earlier, and he wanted to talk to me about coming to work for him.”

While flattered, Rich was hesitant about accepting the offer, particularly in light of his current academic path. However, it was only a week later that another chance occurrence left him struggling to distinguish fate from coincidence. “I was all set to register for classes and had a great schedule lined up,” he remembers. “As luck would have it, there was a glitch with my registration and my whole schedule got wiped. In the end, I decided to take the quarter off and give auto body work a try. Twenty-two years later, here I am!”

Rich assumed ownership of Simply Superior Auto Body in 2007, and he says he still enjoys providing the kind of quality that naturally generates good word of mouth. “I really like when we get new customers who were referred by their friends or family members. When a customer appreciates the service we’ve provided, they tend to want to talk about it, and it makes me really proud to know we have that kind of positive reputation.”

A lifetime resident of the Sun Valley, Rich resides in Walnut Creek with his wife, Jennifer, and their sons, Joshua and Nicolaus. Outside of work, he likes to spend as much time as he can outside, particularly on the golf course. “I really enjoy golf—even though it drives me insane, it still puts me in a relaxing place,” he laughs.

In his life and career, Rich espouses the value of a caring attitude. “When that gentleman offered me a job at his auto body shop, my initial response was, ‘I’m just an architecture student—I don’t know anything about cars.’ To this he replied, ‘I can teach you everything you need to know about cars, but I can’t teach you how to care.’ I think that really highlights the importance of taking your car to a shop where the staff has your best interests in mind and genuinely cares about the quality of their work.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The De La Salle Spartans, the football team of my old high school, as well as the inspiration for the film “When the Game Stands Tall.”

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1978 Fiat Brava.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Thanksgiving, for two reasons: family and food.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: NutRageous bars.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Talk radio.

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How to Get the Most Value for Your Totaled Car

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CONCORD — Following an accident, an insurance company may deem a car to be “totaled,” which means they reimburse the owner for its cash value rather than repair it. The problem is, it’s not unusual for an insurer to value… Read more

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Video: Maximizing the Value of Your Totaled Car

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CONCORD — Host, Sarah Rutan: In the unfortunate event that your car is totaled, it's important to know how to maximize its insurance value. Today we’re… Read more

Mike Ludeman is 24-year industry veteran and owner of Western Auto Body, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2005. Mike can be reached at (707) 861-8756 or by email.

Mike Ludeman

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Mike Ludeman: A Man of His Word

By Matt Solis, Editor

SEBASTOPOL — Mike Ludeman didn’t always know he would end up in the auto body industry, but his interest in the subject has been with him his whole life. I’ve always been fascinated by cars, he says. My dad was in the auto parts business, and in high school my older brother and I spent a lot of time working on vehicles. However, it wasn’t until his late teenage years that Mike realized he could turn his passion for cars into an actual career.

Graduation was coming up and I knew I wasn’t going to college, so I thought, What am I going to do with myself?’ he remembers. I had some family issues at the time, and it was either go in the right direction or stray off in the wrong direction, so I took it upon myself to come up with some kind of career. There was an auto body program at my high school that I dabbled in, and after I graduated, I went to vocational college in Wyoming to learn the trade. Around 1984, I jumped right into the industry.

After working his way through the ranks as a car washer, detailer and prep person at several companies, Mike found himself at Western Auto Body in 1991 as head painter, a job he performed for eight years until the shop came up for sale. The previous owner tried to sell it several times and wasn’t able to get a buyer, and I thought, I don’t want to paint cars forever. What’s the natural progression of all this?’ The next step was to purchase the business. That was in 1999, and we’re still going strong more than a decade later.

Mike’s responsibilities as the owner of a successful auto body shop keep him fairly busy, but he always prioritizes spending time with his two young sons. Right now, I’m heavily into baseball season with coaching Little League, he says. I coach on my 9-year-old’s team and I help out on my 6-year-old’s team. My sons and I also do a lot of summer activities like RVing and boating, and I’m a member of a 4-wheel drive off-road club and a dirt bike club.

As the son of an auto worker himself, Mike says he’d love to eventually teach his boys the intricacies of the trade, but for now, he’s content to keep them involved with more age-appropriate activities. My kids are definitely interested in cars and like watching what I do, but I haven’t exposed them to it too much because they’re so young. I’m not keeping them sheltered from it, but there’s plenty of time for that.

Mike’s approach to auto body work mirrors his overall approach to life: be honest in everything you do. A man doesn’t have too many things besides his word, he says. That’s really important if you’re honest and stick to those guidelines, the results might not be immediate, but you’ll eventually see the benefits of living your life that way. It translates nicely into having a business and dealing with people. I like to build relationships with my customers instead of going the quick route and trying to be transactional, and the only way to do that is through honesty and backing up my word.

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
A: Probably a Bugatti. I like BMWs, too…the new X6 is pretty nice.

Q: Favorite sports team?
A: San Francisco Giants. My sons and I go to a couple games a year, and we’re always watching on TV. We’re definitely a baseball family.

Q: Favorite music?
A: It’s been country lately, but I like a wide variety of music. When we’re out on the boat, we listen to a lot of hip-hop and current stuff. My all-time favorite group is Beastie Boys.

Q: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “Fight for Your Right” by Beastie Boys. Why not?

Q: What’s one movie that people would be surprised you’ve never seen?
A: I don’t really watch movies, actually. I’ve never even seen the Lord of the Rings movies, for example. If I have two hours of free time, I’d rather go do something else.

Q: Dogs or cats?
A: Dogs. We have a Blue Heeler names Buttons who’s almost 17 years old and a Chihuahua named Chili to back that up.

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Maintain the Exterior Finish of Your Car

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SEBASTOPOL — What’s the first thing you notice when you’re shopping for a new or used car? Usually, it’s not the engine, brakes or steering column; it’s what the outside looks like. That’s why maintaining the exterior finish of your… Read more

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Video: Two Ways To Maintain Your Car’s Value

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SEBASTOPOL — Host, Sarah Rutan: There are a couple ways to keep your car looking its best. So, we're in Sebastopol with Diamond Certified Expert Contributors,… Read more

Tyson Jasso is general manager of Blossom Valley Collision, a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at (408) 658-0170 or by email.

Tyson Jasso

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Tyson Jasso: Family First

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE – At an age when most people are just beginning to consider what career path to pursue, Tyson Jasso had already set out on his. “I started working for an auto repair shop while I was still in high school,” he explains. “I didn’t have the opportunity or time to go to college—I had to help my mom pay the rent, so I went right to work.” Just as his early introduction to the automotive industry would lay the foundation for his lifelong career, Tyson’s early lessons in responsibility would foreshadow his later role as a full-time family man.

A lifelong resident of San Jose, Tyson is well-acquainted with the local auto repair industry. “My first job was at Royal Auto Body in Sunnyvale, and from there I went to Capitol Collision and Repair, where I worked for 16 years as a parts manager, sales manager and service writer,” he remembers. It was there that Tyson met David Carter and Nick Campos, current owners of Blossom Valley Collision Center. “At one point, David and Nick decided to leave Capitol and start their own facility. They wanted me to go with them, but it just didn’t work out at the time.” David and Nick continued to stay in touch with Tyson over the next 10 years, and they eventually approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “They had plans to open a new facility and wanted me to help run it. There wasn’t much room for upward mobility at my job—I had climbed the ladder as far as I could, so it was a good opportunity for me. To this day, I still consider it a very fortunate move.”

When Tyson isn’t at work, he’s most likely spending time with his family—Marni, his wife of 22 years, and their two daughters, Maddie and Taylor. While Tyson’s occupation provides him with the financial means to support his family, he considers his active role at home even more important. “My motto is, ‘family first.’ I believe a strong family leads to strong people, which is why it’s so important for parents to be present and involved in their children’s lives. It takes a firm foundation to help kids stay on the right path and grow up to be responsible adults, and that’s what I strive to provide for my girls.”

Tyson’s family likes to stay active and take advantage of the many opportunities afforded by the diverse Northern California topography. “We like to go camping, and we do a lot of wakeboarding and snowboarding,” he says. “I also coach softball, and I’m on the board of the Almaden Valley Girls Softball League, which both of my daughters play in. I’m even on a local softball team that plays on Thursday nights, which is something I look forward to every week.”

Later in life, Tyson hopes to spend more time doing the things he currently enjoys. “I think my wife and I will retire somewhere relaxing and just hang out,” he muses. “Maybe we’ll travel a bit, see some new places. I’d actually like to travel all over the world and snowboard—that would be a dream come true.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1969 Ford Mustang. It sounds fancy, but it was really beat up and broke down soon after I got it. I wish I’d known then that I was going to be working in this industryI would’ve held on to it!

Q: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
A: A Tesla Roadster.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: It’s a tie between Caddyshack and The Sandlot.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
A: I was a “poor man’s pirate” one year—I basically used whatever I could find around the house to assemble my costume.

Q: Have you ever met a celebrity?
A: I met Bob Barker when I was a contestant on The Price Is Right. I actually won a car on the show—a Chevy Cobalt.

Q: What’s your favorite season and why?
A: Winter, because I have the opportunity to go snowboarding.

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Choosing a Repair Shop for an Insurance Claim

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SAN JOSE — In the event of an auto accident insurance claim, your provider will likely recommend using a shop that’s part of its direct repair network. What you may not realize, however, is that you have the right to… Read more

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Video: Your Right To Select A Repair Facility

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SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: After an accident, it is simple to go with a shop that is recommended by your insurance company, but… Read more

Joel Ramos Diaz is owner of American Canyon Collision Center, a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (707) 341-6953 or by email.

Joel Ramos Diaz

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Joel Ramos Diaz: Body Art

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

AMERICAN CANYON — Like his father before him, Joel Ramos Diaz decided to pursue a career in automotive work, but he found himself gravitating toward the more artistic side of the industry. “My dad was a mechanic, and growing up I always wanted to work in an auto shop,” he remembers. “My first job was as a detailer, and from there I jumped into body work, which is where I stayed. What I liked about body work was the visual nature of the finished product. As a mechanic, you can get a car’s engine running again, but when you do body work, you get to see the entire car transformed.”

After gaining further industry experience, Joel made the move to found his own body shop in 2005. Today, as owner of American Canyon Collision Center, he says his favorite part of his job is doing hands-on work. “As the owner, I have to spend a fair amount of time in the office, but I prefer to be in the garage, working on cars and getting my hands dirty.”

Originally from Mexico, Joel came to the United States in 1985 and resides today in American Canyon with his wife, Angelica, and their daughters. “I’ve lived here since I was 15 years old and enjoy being part of the local community,” he says. “I often see my customers when I’m out and about. One time, I had to go to the emergency room, and the doctor said, ‘Hey, I know you, you fixed my car.’ As his patient, I was relieved to hear he had a good experience!”

Outside of work, Joel likes to spend time with family and friends, as well as embark on the occasional road trip. “We have a 32-foot travel trailer that we like to take to the beach and go camping in,” he details. “We’ve taken it everywhere from Canada to Disneyland. I also go to Mexico every Christmas to visit friends and relatives.”

In regard to his professional career, Joel espouses the importance of customer satisfaction. “My main goal is to keep my customers happy,” he affirms. “Like I said, I often see my customers around town, so the last thing I want is to have someone come up and tell me we did a terrible job on their car. That’s why I make sure to provide high-quality work and service for everyone who comes into my shop.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Joel says he’d hitch up the trailer. “I would go on more road trips for longer periods of time—maybe a month or two. We’ve done a lot of traveling on the West Coast, so if we had more time, we’d go further east and see more of that part of the country.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A ’72 Chevrolet Nova.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Overhaulin’.”

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird.

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Cattlemens in Dixon.

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Maintaining Your Car’s Headlights

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AMERICAN CANYON — As the winter brings shorter days, it’s important to make sure your car’s headlights are in good operating condition. Over time, headlights can become foggy, which obscures the shine of the bulbs and reduces visibility while driving at night.… Read more

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Video: Maintaining Your Car’s Headlights

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AMERICAN CANYON — Host, Sarah Rutan: To ensure visibility while driving, you’ll need to maintain your vehicle’s headlights as needed. To learn more, we’re in American Canyon with… Read more

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