When it comes to some of the disadvantages of being a family owned business, co-owner of Elite Collision Center in Battle Ground Deana Morse said seeing each other all the time is probably the biggest drawback.
“You spend approximately 22 hours of every day together in the same building,” Deana said. “It is important to find quality time outside of the office to build and nurture those family bonds.”
Deana and her husband Kevin Morse started Elite Collision Center in 2003 to build on the legacy started by Kevin’s father Art Morse Sr. Art started their family business, Art Morse Auto Repair, years ago in a two-bay mechanical shop east of Battle Ground. He then moved the business to its current location on West Main Street in Battle Ground, next to Elite.
“When he (Art) bought the land to build Art Morse Auto Repair in town, he also bought the property that Elite sits on today,” Deana said. “We love the area and the people, so it just made sense to continue the Morse legacy by building Elite on the Morse family land.”
Elite Collision is a consumer advocate auto body shop, specializing in safety.
“People believe that anyone who fixes cars can fix them properly,” Deana said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Elite Collision is a state-of-the-art repair facility with highly trained and certified employees. We believe in repairing cars to manufacturer specifications without the use of aftermarket inferior parts. The manufacturer specifications are in place for a reason, and that reason is the safety of your vehicle.”
After opening its doors on Feb. 3, 2003, with a staff consisting of Kevin and Deana Morse and five others, Elite currently has 11 employees including Kevin and Deana, and sales have grown over 300% in that time. Kevin, who is president and CEO of the company, oversees the day-to-day operations and finances. After 15 years of running the day-to-day operations and finances at Elite, Deana took some time off to pursue some continued education and recharge herself. She recently returned and now works at the front desk where she gets to interact with customers and help people on a daily basis.
Kevin and Deana aren’t the only family members continuing the Morse family legacy through Elite. The couple’s youngest daughter Megan has self titled herself as “The Glue.” Deana said Megan handles a wide variety of office tasks, from bills payable to helping with payroll, also helping customers navigate the claims process “just like her mama.”
“She leaves in May for a new venture, and we are going to miss her terribly,” Deana said.
A huge advantage that Deana said they have seen as a family owned business is that it allowed them to shift their energy quite quickly to a consumer advocate, non-DRP (non-Direct Repair Program) shop, as she said she doesn’t know how long that change would take a corporate-level shop.
“Seems like it would take a while to trickle down to where the ground-level staff understood ‘the why’ and felt it, too,” Deana said. “I feel the customers are the ones who really benefit from dealing with a family owned business. Tell me if you think a corporate office of a big box store will get involved to see if everything has been resolved after a customer complaint. Kevin and/or I know if there has been an issue we need to resolve, and make sure we have done our due diligence to make it right to the best of our ability.”
Of the many things that Deana said set Elite Collision apart from other auto body shops, one of the main things is Elite’s focus on the safety of their customers and customer service.
“Since we do not work for the insurance companies, as some repair shops do, we are not told that we must use aftermarket parts in our repairs,” she said. “We are not told what can and cannot be done in repairs. We choose to work for our customers and for the safety of their vehicle.”
As for the future of Elite Collision, Deana said she sees them continuing to blaze trails in the collision repair industry with relation to insurance companies.
“We will continue to employ state-of-the-art equipment as technology in cars evolves, the equipment to repair them also changes,” Deana said. “We will continue to build relationships with our clients, informing them of their rights while making sure that their safety is the number one priority.”
Elite Collision Center is located at 1701 W. Main St., in Battle Ground.