2017-08-07 / News

Great Reflections auto body shop sold

By Steven Kovac
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

BROWN CITY — “It was hard to decide to step away and still is,” said longtime businessman Rick Swoish.

Swoish was reflecting on the July 21 sale of the auto body repair shop, Great Reflections, that he and his brother-in-law, Terry Bissett, established, in 1992.

Swoish bought Bissett out several years ago.

The shop occupies a 7,800 square-foot building at 6968 St. Mary Street on the corner of First Street and St. Mary in Brown City.

“Though I’m from North Branch, Brown City has taken me in as a native son,” said the 59- year-old Swoish. “Brown City has been very good to me and my family.

“Serving and helping the people of this community has been my favorite thing about being in business for myself here. I’ve had the chance to employ a lot of people. We have given a lot of vocational ed. students work experience through the years. I loved helping people, especially older folks, who couldn’t afford the charges, and I think we supported every area fundraiser.”

Asked about his plans for retirement, Swoish said, “I’ve got kids in California. I’d like to get out there and spend some time with them. And I’ve got four grandchildren who I enjoy being with. They are my pride and joy.”

Swoish fondly remembers the diverse jobs that have come through his doors during the course of his career. “We worked on airplanes, helicopters, boats, campers, street rods, and custom cars,” he said.

On his office wall hangs a publicity poster from the 1993 film “Demolition Man” starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.

“The movie was made in Michigan. We painted a car for it,” said Swoish.

Swoish believes the secret of his success has been due to the support of his family.

He and Marilyn, his wife of 37 years, raised four children.

“Marilyn has always been my number one supporter,” said Swoish. “My kids all worked here cleaning cars.”

When asked why one of them didn’t take over the business, Swoish answered, “Too dangerous. I encouraged them to work where they wouldn’t be exposed for years to so many chemicals.”

Swoish said, “My son Robby is an aerospace engineer, son Dave is a teacher, son Kevin is a golf pro. And my daughter Kristie is vice-president of a non-profit scientific research organization.”

What about your own workplace safety and health, and that of your employees?

“Little Bill has been with me for 24 years. We’re both pretty good at using respirators and safety equipment,” replied Swoish. “We have no problems.”

The man affectionately referred to as “Little Bill” (among other things) is 57-year-old Bill Howard of North Branch. He is the company’s main painter.

The new owner of Great Reflections is Rick’s second cousin, 37-year-old Mitch Swoish, also of North Branch.

Mitch said, “Other than beefing up our presence on Facebook, and maybe a little reorganizing to make the work area larger, I plan to keep things pretty much the same. I’m keeping the same name, and Bill is staying with me.”

The three men had a good laugh as they explained that, though the business has been sold, it’s still in the family.

“Mitch and I are second cousins. My cousin married Bill’s sister. Mitch is Bill’s nephew. Genetics have always been a strong point at Great Reflections,” joked Rick.

When asked what it would be like having his own nephew as his new boss, Bill said with a straight face, “I only wish I had been a little nicer to him when he was younger.”

In 1976, while a senior at North Branch High School, Rick said he enrolled in the very first class of the then brand-new Lapeer County Education and Technology Center in Attica Township.

“That’s where I got my formal training. My instructor was the late Ken Brown. Ken also trained Bill,” said Rick. “I guess Bill and I have been doing auto body just about all of our lives. We still maintain a cooperative relationship with Lapeer County Ed-Tech.”

Mitch’s background is more varied.

“I worked here cleaning cars,” said Mitch. “I graduated Ferris State with a degree in construction management and civil engineering. I started as a laborer and worked my way up to project manager and senior estimator for a goodsized commercial concrete company.”

Mitch and his wife Julia have two daughters, Ella, 10, and Mia, 9.

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