By Sue Moore
It isn’t as easy to fix dinged up cars as it used to be, according to Joe Townsend, owner of Dunshee Body and Frame. His company just set up shop in Vicksburg at 1728 E. VW Avenue, its second location. “The science behind all the computers that are built into the newer model cars and trucks has changed,” Townsend explained. “It means we approach our estimating and actual work much differently than 45 years ago when Dunshee started in business in Kalamazoo.”
“We start any repair job with a pre-scan to determine the amount of damage and pinpoint where it has occurred,” Townsend said. “Then we do another scan once the car is fixed to authenticate that the work has been done right and the car is safe to drive. Not every automotive repair shop invests in this kind of sophisticated equipment, but we believe it’s the best way to do the job and get our customers safely back on the road.”
Townsend ought to know. He started at Dunshee in Kalamazoo while in college sweeping floors. “I loved construction and fixing things when I was a kid. My uncle worked at the shop so when I was in college I got a job there prepping cars for the paint shop and washing them too,” Townsend said. He ended up graduating from Western Michigan University with a business degree and took a sales job elsewhere. He hated it.
“I went back to Dunshee and the owner, Ken Draayer, started me as parts manager. Then he moved me to estimator and finally general manager when Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003. I ran the shop for Draayer’s widow, Sherrie, for 10 years and then purchased the business in 2015,” Townsend said.
“I’m not unique with having worked here for so many years. Don Carlson moved to Vicksburg to work when we opened and he’s got 40 years in,” Townsend said.
“There is a great need for young technicians to enter the field as there is a huge shortage. We try to grow our own and keep them here. In fact, the day of our open house last fall, Mercer Hardy, a Vicksburg High School senior, walked in and asked for a job. I was happy to have him and he brought another of his buddies from the high school Education for Employment class. We are growing our business in Vicksburg with eight employees here and 29 at our Kalamazoo shop.”
“Training our staff is a big investment but one we strongly believe in,” Townsend said. “Our shop in Kalamazoo is I-Car Gold Class and certified for makes such as Volvo, Chrysler, Hyundai, KIA and Nissan. We are in the process of getting certification for Chevrolet and Subaru. Then this summer, we will get our Vicksburg location certified too. We have gotten busier each week after our opening day. I reached out to the various insurance agents in Vicksburg and surrounding areas to explain our business model. It’s important that they feel comfortable with our work ethic and the results we can achieve.
“Folks here in Vicksburg have been wonderful. It’s a great new location for us between Vicksburg and Schoolcraft.” Townsend lives in Mattawan with his wife Erin and children Tyler, 13, Emma, 8, and Elizabeth, 6. He has coached in the Mattawan Little League and Rocket football and been a sponsor of teams as well.
Carlson may have said it best about his move to the Vicksburg location: “There is no place better to work. Their reputation is great and they treat me right.”