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Sandy Auto Body owners Brandon and Emma Swan receive recognition at chamber luncheon

by: Jim Hart Brandon Swan, owner of Sandy Auto Body, is pictured outside his business, which has been in its present location on Pioneer Boulevard since 1972. The business was selected as Pioneer Business for 2011.

Sandy Auto Body has been a fixture in Sandy for nearly 40 years, serving the community, its youths and the automotive needs of its residents.

But more than just one of the city's businesses, the auto shop has been the type of business people voluntarily recommend to their friends.

For these reasons, the business and its co-owners, Brandon and Emma Swan, were selected by a Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce committee as winner of the Pioneer Business Award for 2011.

Basic criteria for this recognition include being in business a minimum of 10 years and having the owners and employees volunteering for the betterment of the community and its residents.

Selection committee member Marie Teune of Sandy said the Sandy Auto Body nomination stood out mainly because of customer service and community involvement.

'Most of their employees live in this community,' she said. 'Their business has been built primarily on referrals, which says a lot about any company.

'Customers walk away feeling like they are (Sandy Auto Body's) only customer, from the quality of service and care they received.'

Teune also mentioned the business has been a 'huge supporter' of many Sandy youth sports activities as well as the annual FFA Alumni Auction, which supports FFA and 4-H members in the area.

Brandon Swan says he and his employees are trying every day to match the type of customer service seen at Sandy Auto Body after Clyde Cansler established the business in its present location in 1972.

At that time, it was just one of several Quonset huts, similar to La Bamba and Sandy Liquor, but since then a larger building has been built over the initial Quonset.

After its first 22 years under Cansler, the business was taken over by Steve Morency, but Swan says the business apparently didn't grow well for a few years - likely because of a change in the all-important customer service.

After starting an automotive business in Portland at age 19, Swan bought Sandy Auto Body in 1999, when he was 21.

But age has no negative effect on a philosophy of business that puts customer satisfaction before all else. That was the business model mentored by Cansler.

That same business model continues today, under Swan's leadership and 10 dedicated employees.

When Swan describes customer service, he talks about going several extra miles, not just one.

'If a customer brings a car in for detail work or collision repair and they mention it is in need of a tune-up or oil change,' he said, 'we'll send it out for them. It's easier for them if they're in a loaner car while we take care of everything, so they don't have to go to all those places.'

He offers free pickup and delivery or a ride home, and everything done in his shop is guaranteed for as long as the customer owns the vehicle.

For the discerning eye, no one is more critical of his employees' work than Swan. He sets the high bar at nothing less than perfection.

'If it isn't perfect,' he said, 'we'll work on it until it is. If I can see (any flaw in the work) it follows me - because I live here in town, too.'

Swan deals with all insurance companies, and is considered a Direct Repair Provider, which means he is preferred by insurance companies and gets speedy approval for repair work.

'When you come here, and your car is fixed on time and there are no issues,' he said, 'you're probably going to keep your insurance - and it'll be a happy experience.'

Swan will do restoration work on older vehicles, and he has an auto painter experienced in custom work such as three-dimensional airbrush graphics and business signs on vehicles.

For his customers, he also is a satellite branch for Hertz rental cars, with cars waiting at his shop for immediate drive-away.

'We do everything necessary,' Swan said, 'to make (customers renting a car) as smooth and seamless as possible.'

Swan doesn't hire many new employees, especially the positions requiring special skills. He says they like it so well they stay for a long time. He does, however, bring in an occasional high school student to help with training in the industry.

His technicians are CAR certified, which means they go back to school regularly to keep up on the latest.

Office Manager Kathy Pinkerton has been with the business through all three of its owners, starting as secretary in 1978.

Another of Swan's trusted employees at the front desk is Estimator Dan Whitaker. He's one of the people who customers meet first.

At that first meeting, Swan says, he or Whitaker or any of his employees immediately will be working on satisfying the customer on his or her next visit.

Because they know Sandy Auto Body's customer service will bring them back for a next visit.

It is those 'next visits' - those repeat customers - who have supported this business for decades. It's the result of the shop's word-of-mouth reputation.

'Providing quality repairs at a fair price brings repeat customers,' Swan said, 'and that is huge.'