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Auto body shop goes upscale to carve out niche in market

John Seelmeyer

The custom-made solid wood furniture is reflected in the epoxy shine of a stained concrete floor.

Expensive stonework highlights a restroom wall. Outside, artwork waits to be hung.

A new law office? Hardly. The shiny new office at 2200 Glendale a neighborhood with few shiny new offices is home to Gilson Auto Body Inc.

Owners Gilbert Dayao and Sonny Cheng had been scouting Reno locations for about five years when real estate broker Carole Brill of Miller Industrial Properties brought them to the location that previously housed a NationsRent store.

Dayao says they weren’t impressed by the rundown building, but liked its location in the busy industrial neighborhood.

But the more Cheng and Dayao thought about it, they decided that a big investment to gut and renovate the approximately 12,000-square-foot building made sense.

They figure that the upscale office will pay off and fairly quickly.

“It’s all about first impressions,” says Dayao. If the offices are inviting, a customer is less likely to back out the door, mumbling something about seeking another estimate.

Plus, the partners figure the appearance of the building including its landscaped yard area will help Gilson quickly distinguish itself from competitors in the crowded auto-body business.

Gilson invested about $2 million in renovating the office area and purchasing new office equipment.

That doesn’t include the shop, where Cheng and Dayao invested in entirely new equipment to handle collision repairs, automotive painting and general mechanical work.

The business owners have been thinking for 16 years ever since they opened in a 2,000-square-foot Carson City location about how they’d want to lay out an ideal body shop.

Although a move to a 14,000-square-foot location in Carson City about a decade ago got Dayao and Cheng much of what they wanted, the continued strength of the business means the Reno location is even closer to their ideal.

The Reno shop ultimately will employ 12 to 15, Dayao says. The company employs 22 at its Carson City shop.