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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Brad Fitzgerald works on a truck repair at Central Auto Body, which was recently acquired from Jim Nichols.

Portland firm buys Jim Nickels’ Central Point body shop

CENTRAL POINT — A Portland auto body company has acquired the former Jim Nickels shop on Crater Lake Avenue.

Central Auto Body, which operates a half-dozen shops in the Portland area, acquired the nine-bay shop north of Vilas Road earlier this year.

“It took a while because Jim wasn’t going to sell to just anyone,” said Daniel Opoka, the company’s fleet sales manager who attended Southern Oregon University. “It took a while to get the shop, but now we’re expanding.”

In five years, Central Auto Body owner Bret Bothwell, 42, has grown from virtually a one-man show to seven locations, staffed by 100 technicians, painters and support staff. The Jim Nickels operation was the most recent addition, and the shop has been rearranged to expand capacity.

“The way it was set up, you could only handle 40 cars (on the site),” Opoka said. “We can handle 180 cars now.”

Bothwell anticipates Central Auto Body will generate revenue of approximately $15 million in 2018. By 2020, he expects to operate 10 to 12 shops and produce revenue between $20 and $25 million.

“Currently, we’re adding about two shops a year, but at some point, I’m hoping to pick up a multiple-shop deal,” Bothwell said. “Some growth has been organic, some has been from a guy retiring — it’s a pretty crazy growth model.”

Bothwell learned his trade from the ground up, working first with his uncle and then for Mackin’s Auto Body, Oregon’s largest independent auto body firm. From there, he joined Kadel’s Auto Body, which later merged with ABRA Auto Body & Glass. His first acquisition was a small Volkswagen repair shop on SW Macadam Avenue near Johns Landing, where he hired his first technician and painter.

Grants Pass and Woodburn are present growth targets, Opoka said.

Central Auto Body has a truck fleet shop on Columbia Boulevard in Portland with fleet operations now accounting for about 20 percent of revenue.

Opoka said landing law enforcement, county public works, state forestry and Oregon Transportation Department contracts are key components in long-term success.

“You need a mixture or you won’t be in business long,” Opoka said.

The local shop, at 5262 Crater Lake Ave., is managed by Brent Johnson. The hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The telephone number is 541-773-7917.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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