From 'Oh No' to Go! 

 

Screech. Snarl. Crunch.

  

No one likes to hear that sound on the road, especially not from inside the car that just got crunched. But at sixteen years old, that’s the sound Morrie Christner of Bender Menders became intimately acquainted with, when he wrecked his first car. Being mechanically-minded, and interested in the business, he tried to fix it himself. When that failed, he took it to the auto body shop in town and asked for a job, so he could observe and learn the nuances of fixing cars. In the back of his mind, he fancied the notion of owning his own business someday.

 

It’s been a long time since Morrie was working at that auto body shop “rigging” cars as “hot rods” for kids in the 80’s, but he hasn’t lost his love of fixing cars. Tragically, some back problems prevent him from being hands-on, but he can still run the business and share his love of cars from the office. “I was fortunate,” he says, “to be able to learn the business end of things before owning my own auto body shop. From pros, I learned the do’s and don’ts with everyone from mechanics to insurance companies.” And in a world where small businesses come and go, Bender Menders has stuck around, thanks in part to Morrie’s good, old-fashioned work ethic and savvy business sense. “I’m a hard worker,” he says. “I pride myself on that. My parents raised me to believe that you give everything 100%. I try to be the hardest worker out of everyone on the staff. Your car is important. It’s your second largest investment next to your home. You want to know it’s in good hands. You can trust us for repairs.”

  

Running an auto body shop is a challenge, with all the hoops that he has to jump through to get insurance approval on vehicle repairs, but he enjoys it. He laughs, when he says, “One of the things I most enjoy about doing what I do is that I get to be my own boss, and everyone looks up to me to get things done. They trust me. The idea of being my own boss and not being told what to do really appealed to me… I only realized later that while I am a business owner and get to call the shots inside the garage, ultimately I am not ‘the boss.’ The customer and the insurance company make the final call.”

    

That can be challenging, since often Morrie is dealing with oodles of red tape. “Sometimes, the agent agrees that the parts need replaced instead of repaired but can’t authorize it,” he says, “so it goes up the chain of command.” It’s up to Morrie to chase it all the way to approval so that his team can start the repairs. Meanwhile, he has assessed the damages, located the necessary parts, and is prepared to go to work as soon as approval comes through. When your vehicle comes into the shop, you can be assured that some of the best technicians in the industry are working hard to get you back on the road.

  

Living in a rural community is important to Morrie, who says, “I’m a country boy. I grew up in Larkspur and after a few years in Englewood, with my neighbor a stone’s throw away, I wanted to go back to my country roots. I had dreamed of opening a business from scratch, so my wife Lisa and I got in our car and drove. In our search for wide open spaces, we wound up here!” They’ve happily made themselves at home in the community. In addition to his eight years as a major local business owner, Morrie coaches a youth basketball team. His sports-loving family benefits from the country living, which offers them chances to get out into nature. “We love to go boating and camping,” he says. “And once in awhile, for a family treat, we’ll go to an Avalanche or Nuggets game. We love living in a small town where we can be involved and feel very lucky to have a business that helps us to give back even more to the community.”

  

In a world of iced over blacktop, muddy country roads, and “oops, I should have looked before I turned,” it’s comforting to know there’s a long-established, successful, privately owned auto body shop in the community. Next time you hear dreaded collision sounds, call Morrie. w

 

 —CB