Auto shop

Coronavirus: Even the storm can’t boost auto shop business

Spring storms usually bring visits to local body shops, but coronavirus has dampened most businesses and mechanics say they are no exception

ST. LOUIS — When 55-60 mph winds swept through South City, they ripped gutters from buildings and tree branches from trunks, with debris often landing on cars parked below.

These spring storms typically increase visits to local body shops, but the coronavirus has dampened most businesses, and mechanics say they’re no exception.

“Because everything happened with the coronavirus, things have slowed down a lot”, Co-owner of St. Louis Auto & Truck Repair said Lise Renaud. “We usually run around 45-50 vehicles a day, and right now our maximum is maybe 10 customers a day.”

When 5 On Your Side visited Renaud’s garage near Downtown West in January, they were busy repairing pothole-damaged vehicles.

With St. Louis’ stay-at-home order still in effect, their waiting room is closed. They therefore offer new services: taking care of a customer’s car or driving a customer home. Renaud said they also allow time for a thorough cleaning before returning a car to its owner.

“We tried to make it as safe as possible because people still need repairs. I know a lot of people are waiting for businesses to fully reopen,” Renaud said.

The coronavirus has affected the automotive sector on many fronts. With many people driving less, working remotely, canceling car trips, Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson tells CNBC driving is down about 35-50%.

Renaud said that, like many small businesses, St. Louis Auto & Truck Repair has qualified for the Payroll Protection Program, which will give them some momentum to get through this slow time.

“We managed to get that, which takes a bit of the stress off,” Renaud said. “I can breathe a little easier knowing he’ll be able to make the payroll.”

Contact journalist Sara Machi at Facebook and Twitter.

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