It's hard to find a good car guy, and for residents of Pasadena, that search just got more difficult.
After 29 years of repairing fender benders, completing oil changes, matching paint colors and so much more, Gary Simmont has closed the gates to his auto-body repair shop, Body By Simmont, for good.
“I'm done. I've done this for almost 50 and been here 29 years,” Simmont said. “I've done it all my life. The industry has changed. It's kind of like, ‘Go big or go home,’ and I opted for go home.”
For nearly three decades, Simmont and his crew have strived to deliver quality service to their customers before officially closing on August 12. “I'm old school. We're old school,” he said.
As Simmont put it, the auto-repair industry is heavily influenced by the insurance companies, and that hasn't always been the easiest thing to handle. A shift in using aftermarket parts never sat well with Simmont.
“Early on, I never wanted to do that,” he said. “It's changed so much that it hasn't been fun anymore.”
That didn't deter the company from its well-intentioned efforts. “This has been a great community to do business in,” said Simmont, who grew up in Linthicum. “[The] people were wonderful.”
Simmont also expressed his gratitude for his employees but was especially thankful for Don Wickless.
“I've had some good people work for me,” Simmont said. “Don Wickless, I cannot say enough good about him. This is guy is just one in a million. He was a gift.”
Wickless worked at Body By Simmont for 25 years prior to the shop closing. “As the years go by, we've got closer,” Wickless said of Simmont. “[He's] almost like a brother to me now.”
Wickless plans to continue working in the industry at another privately owned shop. “I thought for sure I would retire from here,” he said. “Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. I couldn't ask for a better boss or better friend.”
Simmont decided about six months ago to close the shop. No formal announcement was made; instead, he just notified customers as they came in for work on their vehicles.
As the news spread that the shop would be closing, customers rushed to either get their cars in one more time or just say thank you for the years of service.
“A great compliment was when people found out I was closing up,” Simmont said. “You would think they wouldn't want to bring their car to you, because if there was a problem, you're not there. I had people trying to get in before I closed up so I could fix their car. That was pretty neat.”
For now, though, Simmont would just like a break. He plans to buy a motorhome and travel the country to visit friends and family.
And as much as he's enjoyed the auto-repair industry, he's found two new passions. The first is working with animal shelters to help rescue dogs. Currently, he has three dogs of his own. “Nothing has given me more satisfaction,” he said.
His second desire, as a living donor, is to spread awareness about kidney donations.
“It was one of the most incredible things I've ever done,” Simmont said. “It was a life-changing event.”
After nearly 50 years in the business, he’d like to think he had a big impact on his customers as well.
“A lot of people stopped by to say hi and shake my hand,” Simmont said. “It was pretty cool. We made an impact. It's been a good place to do business.”