By Kathy DeMott
The expertise of auto body repair is a skill some say is becoming a lost art. “My dad was the best auto body man I’ve ever met,” says Sam Andres, owner of Schoolcraft Auto Body Shop which is celebrating 60 years in business. It is the longest running family business in Schoolcraft and has a colorful history.
Sam’s father, Jerry Andres, started doing auto body repair in his home garage while working at Krum Chevrolet. Eventually, he and his uncle, Tom Bell, founded Schoolcraft Auto Body in 1961 at 505 South Street next to the train depot. The brick building, built in the early 1900’s, housed a piano factory and later a furniture factory before becoming a place that repaired and restored vehicles.
Jerry’s commitment to quality, honesty, and concern for his customers helped grow the business over the years. Much of the business is from customer referrals, serving generations of families. Sam says his dad’s integrity lives on in the shop today. “Every job matters to me; when I have your car, it is my car, and I fix it the way I want my own car to be fixed.”
Billie Andres, Sam’s mother, says “Sam has been around cars and the shop since he was a toddler.” So in January of 2000, Sam purchased the business and continues the family tradition.
Sam says, “There’s not a car I can’t fix, although some are not worth fixing. But I can fix it if they want it done.”
On August 5, 2000, Schoolcraft had its first presidential candidate campaign stop, held at the train depot next to the shop. As part of security for the Republican candidate, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Secret Service requested use of the building. It positioned agents in the parking area and on the second floor of the shop. Andres briefly met Gov. Bush, who went on to win the presidential election. It was a memorable experience for the Andres family.
Then a year later, on Oct. 24, straight-line winds tore through the area and ripped off the entire top floor of the building. Although the building held historical and sentimental value, they were unable to restore it. With the support of loyal customers and family, Schoolcraft Auto Body temporarily operated in a barn at Sam’s house. The new Schoolcraft Auto Body opened in January of 2003.
Sam said the last car his dad restored was a 2000 Chevy Camaro with 600 miles on it that had rolled over. He fully restored it and Sam still drives it today. Over the years, the shop has worked on many makes and models, including Hudsons, DeSotos, Studebakers and many Corvettes.
Schoolcraft Auto Body is open Monday through Friday and by appointment. It has a small car dealership and offers loaners while a vehicle is being repaired. “This is a skilled art. We are not part re-placers, we are a family-run auto body shop that educates and cares for our customers.”