Bremerton Collision Repair Shares Business Practices & Long-Term Goals

By Stacey Phillips

Four years ago, Ty Sunkel and his wife, Sarah, opened Bremerton Collision Repair in Bremerton, Washington. Their daughter, Taylor, works in the front office and their son, Cole, is a technician.

“We’re proud to say that we’re a family-owned shop and truly care about customers,” said Ty, who has worked in the collision industry for more than 30 years. “We treat people like we want to be treated.”

Q: What prompted the decision to join 1Collision?

Recently, we realized we needed to be part of something bigger to be successful in the future. From my time working with an MSO, I knew I needed to talk to other shop owners and management for feedback. The only way we can move forward in this ever-changing collision industry is if we get to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Bremerton Collision Repair family-owned body shop

This past year, I went to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV, looking for someone to partner with. My wife and I stopped by the 1Collision booth and had the opportunity to meet the 1Collision team. After talking to President and COO Jim Keller for about an hour, I said, ‘This is my guy. This is the guy who can help us get to the next level.’

Q: Can you tell us about some of the changes at Bremerton Collision Repair over the last few years?

When business slowed down due to the pandemic, we found a larger building to remodel in downtown Bremerton about five miles away from where we were operating. The building itself had been a collision repair shop for 70 years. We secured the lease on it and moved into the 5,000-square-foot location in May 2021. To ensure we were fully equipped, we purchased two Cellette frame benches, a Car-O-Liner measuring system, a Car-O-Liner resistance welder and Pulse MIG welder.

Since then, our team of seven employees has worked hard to grow the business and now we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.

Our latest change was acquiring an office in a building adjacent to the current shop and we moved in earlier this month.

Long-term, with the support of 1Collision and our other partners, we hope to open a second location later this year and possibly a third shop in the next five years.

Q: Now that you’re settled, what is the top priority to focus on at the business?

We are currently working on several OEM certifications and going through the process of becoming an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop with the assistance of 1Colllsion.

To be successful, you can’t be an absentee owner. I pretty much eat, breathe, and sleep the business right now.

We are looking forward to having 1Collision help us work more efficiently and streamline our processes. We are part of several direct repair programs (DRPs) and want the network to assist us to increase insurance and vendor relationships to improve the business’s health. Currently, between 30 and 40 percent of our business comes from dealership referrals and auto repair shops.

Q: What are some ways the shop shows appreciation to those who support your business?

We deliver donuts every week to the dealerships and mechanical shops that refer work to us. We are very appreciative of referrals, so we want to show our appreciation. It also gives a chance to check-in and see if there is anything we can do for them.

Every year, around the holidays, we plan a big party and invite employees and others who support us. We also send cards to our service writers and add a gift card. We make sure to let people know we appreciate them, whether it’s giving them a sweatshirt or a card. It’s the little things you do that make a difference.

For customers, service is everything. One bad review on Facebook, Google, or Yelp is worth 1,000 good reviews. Many shops have lost a sense of customer service and don’t care. However, to be successful, you must go above and beyond every day. That means sometimes, you must eat some crow and say you’re sorry when you’re not. The customer is always right. You need to bite your tongue, nod your head, and do whatever the customer asks to get the job done.

Q: How have you seen the industry change over your career?

I feel like the industry is becoming more impersonal. Business owners used to have to earn their jobs and customers. A customer would come in for an estimate and you didn’t necessarily need to provide the cheapest estimate to get the job. You had to be the sincerest shop and treat people the best.

Things have changed. We always write an honest estimate, but we have a shop across town that always seems to write a $2,000 estimate. That’s bad business, dishonest business. You have to be honest with customers and let them know what’s going on from the beginning so you can earn their business. If it’s a total, it’s a total. We just totaled a drug car, and I was honest with the customer from day one and he thanked me for educating him because it had fentanyl in it.

That’s another thing we’re experiencing, dealing with theft recoveries and fentanyl. It can cost $1,200 to drug test a car and $3,500 for remediation to decontaminate it. That’s nearly $5,000 without even fixing a panel, so it’s going to be a total. In addition to the cost, we need to be careful with technicians being exposed.

With the changes taking place with vehicles and repairs, you must keep your head up and look around and see what is next. One of the things I tell my guys all the time, especially my office people is, ‘I’m not worried about fixing cars today, but how are we going to do a better job tomorrow and even better next month?’