Featured Hiawatha Business: ABRA Auto Body and Glass

Terry Smith stopped wearing a wristwatch when he turned 60. He said, with a smile, he didn’t want to be reminded of time at his age.


Six years later, the president and owner of ABRA Auto Body and Glass in Hiawatha, is still watch free, but willing to talk about his time with ABRA.


After several decades in the car business, Smith opened ABRA in Hiawatha in 1994. Twenty years later, the shop is continuing to grow.


“We have 10 employees and many of them have been with us since we started,” he said. “The people here do a wonderful job. They’re not afraid to work hard and make decisions.”


One of the decisions Smith and his team made was to become a direct repair shop, or DRP, many years ago. After an application process, ABRA was approved and the company now works with most major insurance companies. That means insurance agents tell their clients that ABRA is a preferred auto body shop for all their repairs.


“We now rank as one of the highest-rated shops in the industry,” said Smith.


Customer service is one of the reasons for their success, he said. People typically aren’t happy when they bring in damaged cars, no matter what the reason.


Sometimes there’s been a rear-end collision, sometimes a side collision, sometimes it’s a parking lot accident.


“Less than 20 percent of people leave notes when they hit someone,” he said.


Sometimes people strike objects other than cars.


In the ABRA lobby is a large sign titled “Deer Hits.” With color-coded pushpins, the staff has kept track of every location where their clients hit a deer in the last decade.


But for the most part, ABRA, like many auto body shops, is a seasonal business and their big months come in the winter when roads are slick and conditions are treacherous.


“We can put 20 cars in our shop and we do more than 1,000 repairs each year,” he said.


Technology has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. It has enabled Smith’s business to keep up with demand and to grow.


Whether it’s a computerized estimating machine, a frame machine with a laser measuring system, or computerized paint machinery, gone are the days of writing and doing everything by hand.


But it’s the people that make the difference at ABRA, said Smith. He’s grateful he can rely on his talented staff.


“They make it so much easier for me,” he said. “As a Hiawatha business owner, I enjoy coming to work every day.”


ABRA is a franchise business with more than 100 locations across the U.S.