Not many Marco Island residents can claim to have been here for 30 years. For businesses, the number is only a handful.
But on Tuesday, Aug. 1, Autocraft celebrates 30 years in business on Marco Island. The company provides complete auto body and collision services.
Autocraft owner Ernie Bordon, who has had the business since it began, said a lot has changed on the island since they opened their doors, particularly as regards the summertime.
“Thirty years ago this time of year, you could fire a cannon down Collier Boulevard, and not hit anybody,” he said. Nowadays, you can barely drive a car down Collier Boulevard without hitting somebody, which translates to a steady stream of customers for a body shop.
The biggest change on Marco, said Bordon, has been “the transition from a vacation destination to year-round living.
“We used to gauge how we were doing by how much money we had to borrow to stay afloat during the summer. We’re population driven – as the year-round residents grew, so did my business.”
That growth has been substantial, with the shop on Marco Island augmented by a second location in the northernmost reaches of Naples. Bordon bought the real estate his Marco store sits on 20 years ago, but the tightness of land availability limited the possibility of expansion on the island.
“In 1987, we did $188,000 worth of business,” said Bordon. “This year, we’re on track to do six million.” From the original three employees, Autocraft has grown to now have 40 on the payroll.
“We just hired our 40th employee,” said Bordon. “That’s a lot.”
He credits much of the success to those employees, the skills and the attitude they bring to their work.
“I’ve got guys with me right now who have been here 15, 17, even 25 years. One of the “guys” Bordon singled out for special mention is office manager Jeri Jurewicz, a 20-year employee.
“She’s like a controller for both stores. I couldn’t do this without her,” he said. Keeping the same good competent crew for a long time” is key to producing consistent work, said Ernie, along with keeping those skills updated.
“This business has gotten incredibly technical. To fix cars properly, you need an array of equipment,” and the knowledge of how to use it. “You need to keep educating your employees all the time.”
Along with body repairs and painting, the shop does mechanical work – “if it’s part of the collision,” said Bordon. And they work on all makes. “We used to specialize, but the market is so diverse. We work on Toyotas, and we work on Bentleys – we specialize in everything,” he said.
The combination of skills, facilities and customer service has led to word-of-mouth promotion and repeat business.
“We have a very loyal, consistent local clientele. We have customers who get into an accident up north, but wait till they come down here to get their car fixed,” he said.
One customer came in to pay her bill with a smile on her face as Bordon spoke with a reporter.
“They’re terrific – highly recommended,” said Linda Chambers. “Ernie is a fine Christian man, and you know you can count on him.”
Bordon also expressed his appreciation for Donna, his wife of 33 years, dating back to when he ran an auto body shop in Pearl River, N.Y. before coming to Marco.
“She was behind me all those 15 and 17-hour days,” he said. The couple have three adult children.
Beyond auto body work, Bordon has taken the lead in organizing an annual charity motorcycle run for the Joy of Giving, the Marco-based charity that provides Christmas gifts for underprivileged area children.
“It’s my passion to help kids during the holidays. I’ve done that for 12 years,” he said. If you plan on getting an anniversary gift for Ernie and Autocraft, the traditional present for the 30th anniversary is pearls – but a banged up car to fix would work, too.
If you go
754 E. Elkcam Circle, Marco Island