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Derouin’s Auto Body and Collision takes care of customers

R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press In between putting the finishing touches on a vehicle at Derouin’s Auto Bodu and Collision, Linsey Nelson pauses to say hi to Tonia Henderson and Ace.

ESCANABA — At 6621 U.S. Highway 2 and 41 and M-35 in Escanaba, Tonia and Todd Henderson own and operate Derouin’s Auto Body and Collision, which was founded in 1991 by Tonia’s father, Richard “Cook” Derouin. The auto repair shop provides free estimates, completes work on vehicles as needed “from minor fender benders to major accidents,” provides courtesy vehicles, promotes education surrounding auto insurance and sponsors events that benefit local youth.

From the time Cook Derouin opened the business, his daughter Tonia has handled the bookkeeping. Todd Henderson began working as a technician shortly after Derouin’s opened and has been working on cars at the same location ever since.

“We both started here pretty young,” said Tonia. “I left and did other jobs after college … I did the books for him still on the side, just not as a permanent-type position,” she explained.

Now, she’s one of two who work in the office. Todd – her husband – and three others are technicians who work on vehicles that come through the shop.

Tonia and Todd bought the business from her mother when Cook passed away five years ago.

“We’re a small, family-owned business,” said Tonia, adding that their values reflect that. “We take care of our customers like they’re our family. It’s safe to say all our technicians in the back are very proud of their work. They want the customer to pick up their vehicle and be thrilled with the outcome.”

After a driver has been in a crash and brings their vehicle to Derouin’s – whether it’s driven there or towed – they can expect a certain process to be followed, regardless of the extent of the damage.

The primary assessment, which is free, Tonia described as follows:

“We’ll write an estimate, take proper photos of their car, do a full walk-around. This is what the insurance company requires us to do. Then we send the estimate and photos to the insurance company and wait for them to approve it.”

Tonia said she encourages people to work with a local insurance agent to explore the different insurance companies’ coverage options to make sure they’ll be covered for replacement parts and courtesy vehicles should the need arise. She pointed out that buying insurance online is different and inadvisable.

Derouin’s works with their customers to help them navigate the claim process. Only after the insurance company confirms what they will cover can the process of ordering parts begin.

In some instances, insurance may only cover secondhand parts or aftermarket ones that aren’t exactly the best fit. At times, said Tonia, Derouin’s has shelled out for higher-quality parts even at a loss when they know it will provide a better outcome.

The shop never knows how long it will take for parts to arrive before trying to place an order.

“Last Friday, we had a vehicle towed in, and it’s probably going to be done in the middle of next week. Parts were available,” Tonia explained, “and we squeezed it in between what we had going on.  It wasn’t a huge labor-intensive job, so certain things we can get done quickly.

“When parts are not readily available, we’ll do what we can to help them,” said Tonia, and mentioned that sometimes they must think creatively to find a resolution when both customer and shop are at the mercy of parts suppliers. In the past, an employee drove 12 hours away to get parts in order to get a vehicle back on the road. But there are times when manufacturers are behind and products are backordered throughout the country.

As their customer base has grown, the Derouin’s building has been expanded, and they continue to invest in new technology.

Repair work goes down to the finishing details.

“We’ve had people come in, and they’re like, ‘my car looks brand new!'” said Tonia. “You like that feeling. … The best part of our job is seeing the completed vehicle and knowing our customer is happy with it.”

Steady business allows the company to sponsor local events and groups, like the robotics teams, hockey teams, baseball teams and organizations that get kids involved outdoors, which Tonia says is in honor of Cook.

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