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Still a hail of dent-fix work in Nassau

Jonathan Harding, of Willis Avenue Collision in Albertson,

Jonathan Harding, of Willis Avenue Collision in Albertson, marks spots for repair on a car damaged in Nassau's Aug. 1 hailstorm. (Aug. 24, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Four weeks after a storm brought hail the size of baseballs raining down on parts of western Nassau County, auto body shops and dent repair companies are still dealing with the aftermath of the damage to cars.

Even before this weekend's wild weather, body shop owners and managers said they had car repair schedules nearly filled to October, and with new calls streaming in every day about hail-related damages, many expect to be doing work on dent-marred cars until the end of the year or later.

"Right now I basically have about 125 hail cars on top of my regular collision work," said Jonathan Harding, the manager at Willis Avenue Collision Inc. in Albertson. Harding added he is still getting three to five calls a day about cars damaged by hail. 

Influx of specialists
In addition, four or five traveling companies that specialize in paintless dent repair, or PDR, -- a process where the dent is slowly massaged from the other side until it is gone and keeps the body and paint job intact -- have arrived on Long Island hoping to sell their services by partnering with auto body shops. Some cars will be brought into shops with hundreds of dents, Harding said.

Matt Sabourin, a team coordinator for San Antonio-based Dents and Dings, said his company monitors storm patterns so workers can travel to where their services are needed as soon as possible. Sabourin said his team of 10 PDR technicians arrived on Long Island an hour after the hailstorm hit on Aug. 1 and expect to be here until next year to do dent removal work.

Long Island body shop owners said they have received calls from a handful of out-of-state dent repair companies since the storm -- shops typically fix broken glass and replace damaged body parts but will use the services of a separate PDR company to remove dents.

Some of the body shops have taken deals with out-of-state companies, while others are using local services.

But even PDR companies on Long Island are outsourcing their work because of high demand. Darren Quintana, owner of Dent Monster in Oyster Bay, said the amount of business he is doing has grown 10 times in size after the hailstorm. To keep up with the overflow of work, Quintana has flown in PDR technicians from as far away as Colorado to help him do work.

Auto shop owners also have extended hours and hired extra workers to keep up with high demand. Harding said he has added to his staff, and Joe Coach, owner of Coach Auto Body Repairs in Syosset, said he hired one new employee.

Lou Moneta, a partner at Viper Collision in Uniondale, said he now opens his shop on Saturdays to handle repairs. He also has been trying to hire another auto technician but said it has been difficult to find someone with enough experience. 

Glass, body work too
The extent of the hail damages varies by car, but most need dent repair, glass replacements or more comprehensive body work, said Don Ferrante, co-owner of Keri Coach Works in Westbury. Ferrante's shop is repairing about 60 to 80 cars a week, and a majority of those are there because of the hail.

The hailstorm has brought good money to auto body shops, and Coach described the hail as "liquid gold from the sky." But the amount of work that has to be done by repair shops is also a source of stress.

"There's no doubt it increased business," Harding said of the storm. "It's also increased a lot of pressure on the business because there's so many people out of their cars and you're trying to keep everybody happy."

Many repairmen are prioritizing more severe damages where the car may not be drivable over cases where only the car's exterior is damaged.

Mike Henrichs, 49, of Levittown, is a regular customer of Willis Avenue Collision. Although his wife's car was severely dented by hail, it is still drivable, so the couple is waiting for the shop to fix it.

"She just uses it to and from work, and then we park it and kind of it hide in the back of the driveway and use my car," Henrichs said.

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