By Jeff Sanford
Kingston, Ontario -- January 21, 2016 -- Benjamin Clement and Michelle France have developed a reputation for doing high-end paint work in Kingston, Ontario. The namesake business, Body Shop Benjamin Clement, has carved out a niche in the city by adhering to a code of conduct that ensures the highest quality paint job. The well-deserved reputation comes after a long journey from their hometown of Montreal.
The current facility opened in 2010. But long before that Clement was working as a painter in a collision repair shop on the South Shore in Montreal. There he developed a reputation as a stand-out paint man in the city.
“One car he painted took best-in-show five years running at a local show held in Olympic stadium,” says France. The two eventually relocated to Kingston, Ontario in the wake of a family tragedy. France's grandmother was in a car accident and began experiencing short-term memory loss. “She was lonely. I came to Kingston to keep her company for a summer,” says France. Clement would come and visit. “We were just dating. He liked Kingston. I thought the same. So we decided to stay,” she says.
They didn't let Clement's talents go to waste. They soon started a side business doing repairs in her grandmother's garage. In just four months they had 20 cars out back and local dealerships giving them business.
“We did a lot of free bumper work for the neighbours, but eventually they got annoyed,” says France with a laugh. It was time for their own shop. “We were looking for the best price on rent we could find. But we made the mistake of being outside of town north of the Highway 401, in the countryside,” says France.
The dealerships didn’t want to send their cars that far. So they closed after seven months and found a small 2,000 sq. ft. place in town that France says has become the go-to shop for high-end paint work in the Kingston area. “Our square footage is not large,” says France. “But we know with one painter, one booth, we can only get one car out the door at a time.” So they work within that context. They've built a business around Clement's skills as a painter. “Benjamin has always been a painter. He will always be a painter. Regardless of how many employees we have, no one can paint but him,” she says. “It is always Benjamin in the booth. No one else is allowed to do the painting.”
This is a facility that takes painting extremely seriously. The business gives a lot of attention to small details. The production area is cleaned three times a day. An outside worker comes in once a week to clean the entire facility, including the top of the paint booth. The 3M disposable dirt trap carpet is replaced regularly.
“We do five hours of prep on every car. We're very serious about the outcome of our paint work,” she says. No kidding. They only use copper tubing and eleven filters for the air that goes into the gun. There is no plastic in the line, so there is no build up. There is tack coating on the walls to grab any day-to-day dust. The walls are regularly repainted, every couple of months.
“We keep as much light as we can in here so you can see things. We also have straight neon lights which we can use for reference for making sure things are straight. You'll even see us in the summer with the vacuum on the driveway, keeping dust off the asphalt. That's what it takes,” says France.
The attention to detail gets recognized. Clement recently did an MG that was shown at a British car show dedicated to Jaguars and MGs. It won an award for the best paint job.
Most recently, the facility added a Mirka vacuum to pull dust and paint out of the air, and also installed radiant heating. Body Shop Benjamin Clement is not large, but the facility has cultivated a niche doing Kingston’s high-end vehicles.
“There is a significant portion of doctors, lawyers, college educators and military people in Kingston. It's not exotic like Montreal or Toronto, where you have Ferrari and Lamborghinis. Here there are Porsches, Teslas, Mercedes, a Maserati. We do quite a bit of Harley Davidson. We work for the dealership here,” says France.
For more information, please visit bodyshopbenjaminclement.com.