About Us - Full
by: Jake Weyer - Fender Bender Magazine, September
Reveles discovered collision repair during high school 30 years ago. Now the operator of a successful California shop, he’s offering the
same opportunity to the next generation of repairers.
Silva & Silva
Reveles was a senior in high school in 1981 when he
caught his first glimpse of the collision repair
industry through a career exploration class. He enjoyed
working on cars and picked up some repair fundamentals
through the course, but he couldn’t visualize how the
trade could make him a living until an unfortunate
weekend a year later.
when the first-generation immigrant, who has lived in
Oxnard, Calif., since arriving in the U.S. from Mexico
as a child, was involved in three accidents in three
vehicles during one weekend. He was on the receiving end
of a hit-and-run in his car and another hit-and-run in
his brother’s car before he sideswiped a vehicle while
driving his parent’s car and waving at a girl, he says.
the repair estimate came in at $10,000, Reveles realized
there was money to be made in collision repair. Though
the vehicles were insured, Reveles convinced his parents
to keep the insurance money and let him repair the cars
himself. After some junkyard scavenging and a few days
spent using the skills he learned in high school, he
fixed the cars for around $1,500, impressing his family
and friends in the process.
three accidents really opened my eyes and I saw the
potential of repairing cars as a business,” Reveles
years and Reveles is the owner of Commercial Auto Body, an
18,000-square-foot shop in Oxnard that generates nearly $2 million
in annual revenue and repairs about 85 cars a month. The shop has
nine full-time employees. Throughout the school year there are some
younger faces in the mix, too—high school students Reveles teaches
through a Regional Occupational Program (ROP).
Dozens of students
have learned the collision repair trade from Reveles since the early
1990s. Recently, he’s added an after-school high school program, as
well. His outreach is pure volunteer work, but he says it has helped
his shop build a strong reputation in the community. It’s his way of
helping advance the industry and the lives of young people in
situations similar to his.
“Some kids, like
myself, might not have the money to go to a university,” he says. “I
think it’s a really good investment and it’s a good thing to do.
It’ll pay for itself when you walk into places and you see kids you
mentored. When they say ‘thank you,’ there’s no better reward.”
At the time
of the accidents, Reveles was going to college to become
a dental assistant, another career he’d explored in high
school. But when he didn’t have the financial resources
to pay for books, equipment and tuition, he seized the
opportunity to take a serious shot at starting his own
auto repair business.
TRAINING GROUND: The staff at Commercial Auto Body has
introduced dozens of high school students to collision
repair. Photo by Silva & Silva Photography.
Reveles enrolled in an
entrepreneurship academy through the U.S. Department of
Labor, where he learned the basics of launching a
business. That knowledge, coupled with the discipline
and organizational skills he learned during his stint in
dental assisting school, helped him create a vision and
set goals for his body shop.
TRAINING GROUND: The staff at Commercial
Auto Body has introduced dozens of high school students
to collision repair.
Photo by Silva & Silva Photography.
With $300 and a
crude set of hand tools, Reveles opened a one-car 750-square-foot
shop that was little more than a shed. He started fixing cars for
friends and family. Over time, he grew his customer base. He worked
every day, often until the early morning hours. For paint, he rented
a spray booth at a nearby shop.
After six months of
steady work, Reveles had earned enough money to move his operation
to a nearby 1,500-square-foot space with its own paint booth. By the
end of its first year of business, his little body shop had
generated $35,000. Year after year, the growth continued.
“When I started, I was next to the largest body shop in the county,”
Reveles says. “They thought the odds were bad for me, but now I’m
the largest in the area.”
Today he’s teaching
students how to do the same thing, with these keys to success:
Customer care. Reveles says honesty and courtesy are at the heart of his business.
He’s willing to invest in customers where many of his competitors
will not, offering payment plans when insurance won’t cover a
repair, for example.
He’s careful about
who he gives credit to, but if it’s clear someone is in a tight
spot, they’re employed and they’ll make the payments, he usually
doesn’t bat an eye at lending a hand.
benefits than losses,” he says. “If I weigh the amount of success,
the losses are very minimal.”
Marketing to his
community. Oxnard has a large Spanish-speaking population and nearly
all of Commercial Auto Body’s customers are Hispanic, Reveles says.
His primary marketing method is buying spots on Spanish-speaking
radio channels, and he’s kept his radio ads consistent for years. Up
next, he says, are TV commercials.
Planning and goal
setting. From the very beginning, Reveles put all of his business
plans and goals on paper and stuck to them. That’s a practice he’s
continued. In his sights now: He wants yearly revenue to hit $3
million in the next two years. He expects to be a two-shop operation
by then. In fact, he’s already purchased the second building.
Commitment to the
The shop also teaches students through a
high school program. Tech Edgar Cordoba, with shop owner
Jose Reveles, is a former student.
Photo by Silva & Silva Photography.
began accepting high school students involved in the ROP
in 1993 after developing a relationship with one of the
instructors. Students in the program spend a semester or
longer at his shop, shadowing employees, learning
different aspects of the business and doing some
hands-on work. Many end up working in collision repair
and some, such as senior body tech Edgar Cordoba, stay
on as full-time employees at Commercial Auto Body.
Cordoba, now 26, started interning at the shop in 2000.
didn’t know anything at all [about collision repair],
but I liked it,” he says. “It helped me a lot. I
wouldn’t be here if I wouldn’t have started through the
Cordoba is the one teaching interns. And though having
high school students in the shop for most of the year
might seem like a burden, Cordoba says teaching the next
generation is engrained in the culture of Commercial
“They’re going to be the future of the auto industry,”
Reveles says teaching youth is good for business. The
community recognizes his efforts. Many of his customers
are the parents, relatives and friends of students. He
also has nearly two decades of plaques in his
lobby—which is designed after the posh dentist waiting
areas he saw back in school—promoting his involvement
with the ROP.
A couple of years
ago, two officers from the Oxnard Police Department approached
Reveles with plans for a new after-school program for teens
interested in automotive careers.
program, called DRAGG (Drag Racing Against Gangs and
Graffiti) introduces students to a variety of
performance-oriented segments of the auto industry and
provides scholarships toward auto careers. The aim is to
keep at-risk youth off the streets and out of trouble.
Commercial Auto Body has hosted a variety of workshops
for students in the program. The shop also painted the
program’s promotional 2006 Mustang drag car.
Shrubb, a senior officer with the Oxnard Police
Department and co-founder of DRAGG, says Commercial Auto
Body repairs all of the department’s squad cars. And
with the shop’s emphasis on education, bringing DRAGG to
Commercial Auto Body was a clear fit.
heart is there and he wants nothing less than the best
for the kids around him,” Shrubb says.
The Oxnard Police Department invited
Commercial Auto Body to be a part of its DRAGG program,
aimed at keeping at-risk youth off the streets and out
Photo by Silva & Silva Photography.
Reveles says that the program, along with his ROP involvement,
helps him remember the roots of his success. “I identify myself
as one of them, and I had a dream like they do,” he says. “Now
that I am living the life, why not tell them what it took to get