After outgrowing a smaller shop in Brooklet in about a year's time, Ward's Auto Painting & Bodyworks moved in January to a larger, established shop on U.S. Highway 301 South, next door to J.C. Lewis Ford in Statesboro. An open house event is scheduled for April 30.
But according to Ward's Auto Painting & Bodyworks founder Robbie Ward, Statesboro can expect another grand opening from his company in 2017. When the former Ford body shop became available, Ward took the opportunity to lease it because the volume of work here required more space. But he already had plans to build a state-of-the-art shop, measuring 20,000 square feet, at a yet-to-be-announced site in Statesboro. That project is in the planning phases now, and he hopes to begin construction by October to open the all-new shop in early 2017.
"Statesboro is a very good market. I did a lot of Statesboro work in Savannah," Ward said in a phone interview last week. "That's what has me wanting to move a little closer. It's a good, family market in Statesboro, and the growth in Statesboro is what is driving me. Statesboro is growing, and of course what I look for is growth."
For 2016, Ward's has gained more space by moving to 12130 Highway 301 South. The building had been the former Rozier Ford body shop. J.C. Lewis Ford, which bought the Rozier dealership at the end of 2013, opted not to provide body work from this location.
The open house, Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., will feature a show car version of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Axalta No. 88 Chevy SS for attendees to inspect and photograph. A free hotdog lunch will be served.
MS benefit raffle
Also at the April 30 open house, four tickets to a NASCAR race, the July 2 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, will be raffled off, with all proceeds to benefit Walk MS: Savannah 2016.
Leah Wilson, customer service manager at Ward's Chatham Parkway facility, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago. She has served as the Walk MS coordinator for five years. Besides raising funds for research, the walk serves as a gathering point for people affected by multiple sclerosis, to show support for one another, Wilson said, as quoted in a Ward's Auto Painting & Bodyworks press release.
"Everyone has a different story to tell," she said. "I'm very high functioning, so for me, contributing to the walk is more of a therapy. It's a way of contributing to a community that I'm very much a part of."
For Ward, helping raise money for the M.S. Walk is a way to support a valued employee, as well as a worthy cause.
"She's a key part of my business," Ward said in the interview. "It's kind of her charity. So I've teamed up with her and she does a good job with it."
Meanwhile, Ward and his operations director, Zach Dykstra, see the open house as an opportunity to establish communication between their Statesboro team and area residents, the press release states.
More about Ward's
Besides custom painting, Ward's does collision repair, works with insurance companies, arranges for rental cars for customer convenience and guarantees all of its work 100 percent, Ward said.
To be eco-friendly, all of Ward's shops use water-based paints, instead of paints with chemical solvents. The water-based paint is the color base, and still requires a topcoat that does use a solvent. The company also recycles its scrap metal and all of its cardboard and paper, doing what it can for the environment in an industry that does produce a lot of waste, he said.
He opened the first shop in Richmond Hill in 2000. That shop was sold in 2011, but Ward's has grown to eight locations, including three in Savannah, one in Garden City, one in Brunswick, two in Jacksonville, Florida, and now one in Statesboro.
When construction is complete, Ward's Auto Painting & Bodyworks will move from the shop beside J.C. Lewis Ford to the new, larger building, slated to open in early 2017, instead of operating both locations.
The Statesboro shop currently has seven employees, led by manager Bob Wyatt. Ward foresees more growth in the planned all-new building.
"Hopefully we can employ some more people there, too," he said. "We usually staff 20 to 25 people at each store, so hopefully it will bring some more jobs to the area."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.