FAIRFIELD — Oscar Moreno dreamed of opening his own auto collision repair shop. His cousin Fidel Zavalza had plenty of experience doing just that.
“We joined forces,” Moreno said.
The result is Integrity Auto Collision Center. The two-year-old business in December 2013 was honored by the Solano County business community with a Spirit of Solano award.
Integrity is located in a tilt-up concrete building at 1891 Woolner Ave. Inside on a recent day were about a dozen cars and outside were about 20, with various degrees of fender and other damage.
It’s good to see a car being put back together, Zavalza said.
“Especially if you do it right and bring it back to pre-accident condition,” he said.
But there’s more to the job than getting rid of dents. Customers can be upset, confused or scared after an accident has left their vehicle badly damaged.
“The first thing is to provide them with energy – if no one was hurt, it’s going to be OK,” Zavalza said.
Integrity’s waiting room has a color scheme that includes orange, gray and white to be soothing. As Zavalza demonstrated, the work space where repairs are made is clean. Then there are such tasks as dealing with the insurance company.
“Our job is to make sure everything comes together,” Moreno said.
Zavalza has been doing that since the 1970s, when as a teen he helped out at an auto repair shop in Colma. In 1979, at age 19, he bought shop. Then he got married and bought a house.
“I had three big responsibilities at a very young age,” Zavalza said. “There were times I’d kneel down crying in the corner – ‘How do I do this?’ ”
He responded over the years by upping the ante. He opened a second auto collision repair shop in Napa, sold the Colma shop, moved to Napa and opened even more businesses. By 2000, he owned the Napa auto repair shop, taquerias in both Napa and St. Helena and a soccer store.
Then, at age 41, he retired. All those years of getting up at 4 a.m. and coming home at 10 p.m. or later began to prove burdensome.
“I had four daughters I had not spent any time with and I really needed to spend time with them,” Zavalza said.
In subsequent years, he got a divorce, traveled the world, moved to Mexico, ran businesses in Mexico involving tequila and tamales and remarried. He moved back to the United States so his wife could keep her U.S. residency.
He came to Fairfield, where Moreno lived. Moreno had worked in Zavalza’s Napa repair shop and in various other shops in subsequent years, becoming certified to work on such vehicles as Porsche, Jaguar and Audi.
“I asked him, what is his dream,” Zavalza said. “He told me he wanted to open a body shop.”
Moreno said they succeeded in opening the shop, not because they had deep pockets, but because they had a dream and would not let it go.
Integrity does such things as help with car washes and with Mission Solano. It seeks community involvement.
That led to the Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce choosing Integrity for a Spirit of Solano award. All of the local chambers chose winners and honored them at the Hilton Garden Inn on Dec. 5, 2013.
“In a short time, they’ve had a huge presence in our community,” Karla Prieto of the chamber said during the ceremony. “They truly embody the Spirit of Solano. Their focus in on serving their customers and the community.”
Integrity Auto can be reached at 425-4220.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.