Everyone likes a local hero. And local heroes certainly include local business people who take on projects that add value to the community by bringing new businesses and jobs into vacant commercial buildings around town.
Our focus this week is on local entrepreneur Greg Matthews, owner of Graphic Auto Body.
Graphic Auto Body has been in business at 1451 W. Texas St. since 1985. If you’ve driven on West Texas Street, we are sure you must have noticed the business location – there are not too many classic “Quonset huts” around these days! The original owner, Dan Ulrich, sold the business to Matthews in 2005. Ulrich currently operates an auto body shop program at Solano Community College and has retained ties to Graphic Auto Body in ways we will later explain in this column.
In a phone conversation this week, Matthews noted to us that as with most auto body shops, his “bread and butter” business is collision repair and insurance work. With his experience and full-scale paint booth, however, Graphic Auto Body is also able to work on hot rods and specialty cars. Interestingly, Graphic Auto Body also takes advantage of other niches, such as painting industrial equipment, special projects or odd-ball equipment, specialty vehicles, and even air conditioning units and forklifts.
Graphic Auto Body also emphasizes local ties.
“Our desire to give back to the community, and Solano College auto body program instructor Dan Ulrich’s enthusiasm for students to learn the trade has led to a successful internship program,” Matthews said. “We had an intern for a few months that worked out so well, we hired him. It’s a great way to get new talent.”
With several auto body shops around town and summer approaching, your Economic Notes reporters hope that all the shops will invite student intern workers.
Hopefully these local connections will continue as Graphic Auto Body enters into a new era. Matthews had always wanted to own his business location and didn’t have the opportunity at the West Texas Street site. With the closure of Travis Auto Body at the corner of North Texas Street and East Wyoming Street, Matthews gets his opportunity at commercial building ownership. Matthews will be relocating Graphic Auto Body to 1350 N. Texas St. within the next two weeks. We may see a return of “classic cars” similar to those that former Travis Auto Body shop owner Vic Langlas used to display. Right now, Matthews and his team are working on touching up their new location with paint and landscaping and general cleanup to make the new location even more customer friendly. The North Texas Street site is also a bigger space, at 15,000 square feet versus the 10,000 square feet on West Texas Street. Matthews indicated that he employs eight people at the moment and may be able to hire additional staff in the future.
One by one the vacant commercial spaces are being occupied in Fairfield.
The former Midas Muffler building at 1655 W. Texas St. was an “ugly duckling” building for years. The building sat boarded up and unloved until Pat Watson, a local guy with a successful shop in El Sobrante, decided to open Midway Automotive & Muffler in April so he could work a little closer to home in Fairfield.
We hear that another long-vacant building is about to be purchased. Located behind the DMV at 2425 Auto Mall Parkway is a commercial building at 180 Serrano Drive that has never been occupied since its construction in 2003. The building is now slated to house a new insurance agency and a smog shop. Being next to the DMV, this seems like a perfect fit for the location.
As a reminder to our readers, the first public workshop on the 2014-22 Housing Element Update is scheduled May 14 in the Fairfield City Council chamber. The Housing Elements will help guide city policy related to housing development and affordable housing for the next eight years, so residents with an interest in these issues . . . and ideas . . . are definitely welcome. Please call or email Brian Miller, associate planner at 428-7461, [email protected] if you have insights on housing issues. Or, simply show up at the workshop. We look forward to your participation.
Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. Reach them at 428-7461 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]