Take a journey through the decades with our timeline of Raymond Auto Body’s History.
It was the late 40’s. Harry S. Truman was acting President between hunting expeditions. The Studebaker Commander was the best-selling car at $2,468 and everyone was jitterbugging to the top hit, “In the Mood.” Meanwhile, young Raymond Slomkowski was taking steps of his own to open an auto body repair shop on Grotto Street in St. Paul’s Frogtown area.
It was at that little shop that the cars of the day such as Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxes, Dodge Coronets, Plymouth Special Deluxes and Oldsmobile Futuramic 88s were restored to their original, sparkling beauty with welding torches, ball peen hammers and hours of relentless, painstaking work. It was at this same little shop that the Raymond Auto Body reputation for quality craftsmanship began to take shape.
Along came the 50’s. Elvis was “all shook up,” every car had fins, everyone “loved Lucy” and Americans’ unending love affair with the Chevy Corvette was born.
At the same time, a young Dick Slomkowski was learning the art of auto body repair alongside the area’s most skilled craftsman – his father. Through Dick’s tireless research with new technologies and products, Raymond Auto Body was quickly becoming known for having the most up-to-date equipment, methods and tools. Those, combined with a growing family commitment to service and quality were establishing Raymond Auto Body as the obvious choice for auto body repair in the Twin Cities.
As the 70’s rolled in, along came disco music, bell bottoms, leisure suits, political disillusionment and the worst recession America had seen in years. Imported cars were floating into the U.S. market at alarming rates. American automakers bravely stepped up to the challenge with the likes of the Gremlin, the Pacer and the Pinto. Needless to say… the viability of import cars was forever secured. This was indeed, the dark ages of the American auto industry.
It was at this demanding time, while the American auto industry was falling apart, that Jerry Slomkowski was learning how to put a car back together… as well as how to satisfy customers and maintain a reputation two generations of hard work, commitment and honesty had built.
The 80’s kicked off with an actor for United States President. Lee Iacocca was re-engineering Chrysler. Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight boxing champ. And Joel Slomkowski was learning that auto body repair business wasn’t for lightweights.
As third generation “body builders” Jerry and Joel were leading a shop that boasted a highly respected name for quality work. They’d received high praises from their customers with a 99.3% satisfaction rating. They’d become the repair facility of choice for many of the area’s Mercedes, Porsche and Audi dealers, as well as a Preferred Shop for many of the area’s auto insurers.
Great pains and costs were taken to ensure they led the industry with the newest equipment and technologies – from paints to frame equipment. Even so, they recognized it was their commitment to craftsmanship that had set them apart for three generations and would continue to do so into the future.
As the 90’s dawned the Reagan era continued in the White House with Vice President George H. W. Bush taking over as the main man. Meanwhile Ford debuted the Explorer and gave birth to the SUV market while killing the station wagon. Ford maintained its good fortunes with the Taurus which took over the number one selling sedan title (1995) from the Honda Accord, and maintained the throne for three years.
In technology, Netscape debut and started the famed dotcom boom (1995) while President Bill Clinton admits Area 51 really does exist (oooh, spooky). Around the body shop, it was business as usual. The 90’s brought on the era of direct repairs which allowed insurance companies to recommend the body shops they trusted. Of course Raymond was tops on a lot of those lists as their quality of service and craftsmanship continued to earn them high marks and many referrals. As the nineties came to a close, the great one (Wayne Gretzky) retired from professional hockey and the world was living under the dark shadow of the impending Y2K meltdown.
Having ushered in the New Millennium with nothing more than a Y2K blip, we were free again. Honda introduces the first Hybrid in the U.S., the Insight. Chrysler goes retro with the PT Cruiser (2001) and the Mini Cooper craze begins (2002). It was about this time Jason Slomkowski was graduating from Hamline University and entering the job market where he would wander for the next two years. Finally in 2005 Jerry Slomkowski invites Jason out of the cold and join the business as the 4th generation, assuring the family legacy will live on.
Meanwhile, Raymond Auto Body had gone back to school and earned two prestigious certifications. The first was the Certified Mercedes Benz Collision Facility, making them one of only a handful of body shops in the country that exceed the standards of repair work, training, equipment and customer service Mercedes demands. This is a long, arduous and costly program to go through, but one that Raymond felt their customers deserved. The second certification is the Authorized Audi Collision Repair Center. This program demands technicians go through extensive training in the use of Audi factory approved technologies. Together, these two programs assure Raymond has the tools, technology and skills to repair any car on the road.
As President Obama finishes his final term, with economy in need of a jump, Raymond will continue to invest in new technology and tools.
As Jerry Slomkowski says, most auto body repair shops have the same equipment and many possess the skills. However, at Raymond they continue to invest in their people. The average Raymond employee has been there for 15 years and over a handful have been there 30 years or more. That kind of dedication doesn’t come without creating a fun work environment where people are challenged, continue to grow and embrace the impact they have on the process. At the end of the day, when all the tools are put away, it comes down to people.
As we make our way through the second decade of the new millennium, Raymond is committed to their people. Making a fun place to work, growing as a team and inviting customers to experience the quality of service and craftsmanship that has made Raymond the top auto body repair facility in the cities.