Davis Continues To Build 60-Year-Old Family Business
By CASEY MURPHY
Darren Davis has worked his way up from "chief floor sweeper" to president of Davis-Green Paint & Body Shop and is continuing to grow the family business after 60 years.
The shop was started by Davis' grandfather, W.O. Davis, and his great uncle, Doug Green, after they got back from the Korean War in 1952, he said. Both had mechanics experience and opened a small shop on Erwin Street.
In 1978, Darren Davis' parents, W.O. Davis Jr. and Barbara Davis, bought the business. His father had been working in insurance in Austin before moving back to Tyler.
"They dropped everything in Austin, scrapped up money to buy it and the result is this," Davis said sitting in his office inside the large shop.
Within three or four years, his parents built a larger shop behind Cavender's Boot City, expanding the small garage into a 15,000-square-foot facility. In 2000, they expanded again, constructing the current 37,000-square-foot building at 5005 Old Jacksonville Highway.
After serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, including a stint in Iraq in 2003, Davis, 44, moved from Fort Worth back to his home town in 2004 and began learning the family business from an adult perspective. Davis and his wife of 19 years Pam, have two children, Madison, 16, and Austin, 13.
"I had been around the business when I was young," Davis, of Bullard, said. "I was the chief floor sweeper when I was a kid.
"I sat around listening a lot to the type of place they (my parents) wanted it to be," Davis said of when he was a child. His father was determined the business was going to be honest, ethical and up front with its customers and "if it got to the point that if it had to be done differently, we would just shut the doors."
That philosophy has taken the business to where it is now, mostly because of its repeat and referral customers, he said. The business was able to weather the economic storm and continues to grow, he added.
Davis-Green repairs about 140 cars a month and it "can be anything from mom backed into the basketball post to the car got hit by a bus," he said.
"We do a lot of preaching about treating these cars like your own, or even better," Davis said. They fix cars that have been wrecked badly and they must know it's done right before putting a mother and her child back into the vehicle, he added.
As big as Tyler is, Davis said he can't go to lunch without seeing one of his customers and he knows he better be able to look them in the eye after he has worked on their car.
Davis-Green primarily does collision repair and stays away from custom paint and other such jobs because it takes away from its high-volume production facility. The shop has fully certified mechanics who "can do everything you can imagine on the mechanic side" but don't offer those services alone. Davis-Green does everything involved with collision repairs -- from mechanics to repainting -- so everything can be done in house, he said.
From the design of the expansive lobby to its friendly staff and on-site rental car facility, Davis-Green said he tries to break the mold of a typical body shop.
"The goal is for you to not feel like you're in a body shop," Davis said.
They offer updates with text messages or emails and customers can choose a service to go online and receive daily pictures of their cars being worked on throughout the process.
To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Davis-Green is giving out gifts to thank its customers throughout the year and recently held a celebration for vendors, associates and others who have been involved with the business.
Davis-Green has 35 employees and at least 80 percent of them have been working there for more than 10 years, Davis said. They have a painter who has worked there for almost 30 years and Larry Fuller, the general manager, has been there for 32 years.
"If you can take care of the people who take care of things, it makes the business so much healthier," Davis said, adding that he learned that through his military experience and from his father. "Dad's theory was the folks working for you are the ones who make or break a company so you better take care of them."
Davis said his employees work in a job where they are mostly underappreciated for their abilities. But with every car wrecked differently, he said it is an art and learned skill.
"It's not real glamorous but these guys have got some amazing talents," he said.
He said they work to keep the shop and cars clean and they try to stay up on the latest equipment. The computerized frame machines can take the frames of a vehicle back down to factory specs or better, they use a digital imaging alignment machine for accuracy and state-of-the-art down-draft paint booths.
"We want you to come pick up your car and feel like you're picking it up from the showroom floor," he said.