The Empire Collision team at their South Edmonton location, on 9000 60 Ave. NW.  

By Melissa Hayes

Edmonton, Alberta -- August 25, 2014 -- When Empire Collision South opened its doors to the public the evening of August 21, it let in a wealth of history and city pride as hundreds gathered to mark the auto collision repair shop's 50 year milestone.

With modest beginnings in a small space in the city's west end, Empire Collision has come a long way since its inception in 1964. Half a century later, the collision repair shop has changed address and expanded to two locations—Empire Collision South and Empire Collision West—blossoming under the guidance of industry heavyweight Bill Johnson, brought on as general manager in 2007 by owners Ken Smoley and Janet Howard. The local business partners acquired the shop almost two decades ago.

"We're born and raised Edmontonians, and I have been in business with Janet's husband, John for 35 years. We bought Empire Auto Body about 15 years ago from the founder's son," Smoley says, adding that while the ownership may have changed, the original heart and dedication to serving the public has not. "The founder's tagline was 'We take pride,' and we’ve made a point to carry that on," he says.

Smoley says it's this attention to not only delivering quality work, but also maintaining a strong focus on the customer experience that has allowed Empire to reach such a monumental birthday. "Our industry is referred to as a grudge purchase. People aren't generally happy when they walk through our door," he says. "So we try to understand that, and try to take as much grief out of the process as we can for the individual involved. People appreciate that. We get cards and thank you notes all the time."

In addition to practicing a high level of empathy and efficiency, Empire Collision has also embraced a strong sense of community, making a point to give back regularly through charity work, with its 50th year being no exception.

Partnered with The Kids Kottage Foundation, the shop has raffled off both a 1964 Mustang—the iconic vehicle having rolled off the assembly line the year Empire opened for business—as well as the most current model, to help ring in five decades spent serving The City of Champions. While the winner of the mint condition vintage car was handed the keys as part of the scheduled festivities, Smoley says the 2014 model is still up for grabs.

With the event marking the start date of the raffle on the 2014 Mustang, limited to 5,000 tickets, Smoley says it will raise $100,000 for the children's charity. The draw is set to take place ahead of the holiday season.

In addition to vying for the prize, attendees also had the chance to rub elbows with local celebrities, including two Edmonton Oil King Memorial Cup winners, as well as representatives from the Edmonton Eskimos. 

 

While offering a selection of refreshments and musical entertainment, Empire Collision, falling in line with the company slogan—“we specialize in the unexpected”—made sure to surprise event goers with the unveiling of what they consider a gift to the city and its citizens.

“Anybody in this industry will admit that they’re only as good as their market, and how well they serve their clientele. Empire couldn’t make it to 50 years if it wasn’t for Edmonton, and for their customers saying really great things about them,” says Jason Bekdashe of TransparentC, who’s worked in conjunction with the company for the last six years. “So to thank them, we . . . commissioned a local artist to paint a 12 foot by 120 foot mural, depicting Edmonton over the last 50 years, spanning all the major milestones up until now.”

Crafted by artist Kris Friesen, the large scale mural decks Empire’s South 170 foot wide exterior wall, facing 91st Street, showcasing the likes of the city’s Commonweatlh Stadium, the Championship years of the Eskimos and Oilers, as well as both gifted Mustang models. 

 
Empire Collision South's 12 foot by 120 foot mural, painted by local artist Kris Friesen, faces 9st street and depicts 50 years of Edmonton history.   


It’s these types of gestures that communicate Empire’s desire to not only commemorate their company’s long-lived success, but to also celebrate the industry as a whole, the talent they’ve nurtured and the hometown that’s housed them for so many years—a sentiment companies like BASF and its distributor, Carlson Body Shop Supply, are happy to be involved with.

“We are really proud to be partners with the Empire Collision team, and look forward to helping them grow even further,” says BASF’s Mark Livingston, adding that the seven-year partnership has allowed the paint provider to play an integral role in the evolution of the shop’s day-to-day operations and long-term planning. “This anniversary is a huge accomplishment within the industry and within BASF.”

While the event offered an opportunity to reflect on the past, Smoley can’t help but also consider the future of Empire Collision, and its place in Edmonton.  

“We want to be bigger. We’re looking to have shops in each quadrant of the city so that regardless of where a customer lives, there’s an Empire location that can look after them.”

Empire Collision’s 50th Anniversary Celebration was held at Empire Collision South, located at 9000 60 Ave. NW. For more information on the Empire Collision Group, please visit empirecollision.com.

 

 

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