Body shop puts polish on past

For three generations, Ames Bros. has ironed out the dents

From left, Charles E. "Chuck' Ames, his son, Brad A., his nephew, Frank R., and his great nephew, Justin R., stand in the garage of their body shop on Gillette Road in the town of Watertown. All three generations currently work in the shop. Photo by Amanda Morrison.

By Kyle R. Hayes
NNY Business

Charles E. “Chuck” Ames knows the answer to the question, “What was your first vehicle?” before the sentence is even completed.

“Oh of course, a ’41 Ford,” he replies quickly.

For Mr. Ames, owner of Ames Bros. Service Center, Watertown, automobiles have been his livelihood since he was a teen. In particular, crunched, cracked, dented, wrecked and broken automobiles. Each month, Ames Bros. sees more than 70 vehicles at their 21780 Gillette Road location where they specialize in collision repair, body work and automotive painting.

Mr. Ames’ father, Frank, and two brothers, Walter and Robert, founded Ames Bros. Service Center in 1950 at its original location at 19059 Route 11 Watertown atop Washington Street hill. The business moved to its present building in March 2011.

“When I was in high school I used to come to the shop after school,” Mr. Ames said. “Then I went into the Army in 1954 for two years and returned in 1956 and have been here ever since.”

One of his earliest memories is working with an air hammer, a tool used for cutting and shaping metal, at age 14. Mr. Ames’ son, Brad A., nephew, Frank R. Ames, and Frank’s son, Justin R., also are heavily involved in the business. Brad said that he remembers learning how to pump gas, sweep floors and drive a go-cart on the Ames Bros. lot at the tender age of 8.

Walking into the service center, the smell of fresh car paint drifts into the reception area and a pile of crumpled plastic bumpers sits behind a newly painted truck, remnants of an accident that the Ames Bros. team all but erased.

“Business has been better than ever,” Brad said. “We have a steady stream of vehicles all the time here. With the new facilities we have more room for vehicles and some new equipment, like an electronic measuring device that will measure down to the millimeter. I believe we are one of only two garages with that equipment in the area.”

The former home of the Ames Bros. Service Center on Washington Street in Watertown. The business was founded in that location in 1950.

Without saying a word, Chuck confirms that business has stayed steady, sifting through a clipboard of estimates when a customer calls, which they do often. A stream of tow trucks and clients work their way through the building. A Volkswagen is being dropped off after an accident and its owner walks through the front door looking to collect her belongings from inside. Outside, another tow truck pulls in at the same time the phone rings – another customer checking on the status of their vehicle repairs.

Both Brad and Chuck mention that winter is normally their busiest season, with increased vehicle accidents due to slippery road conditions. This year’s mild winter weather led the way for a different revenue source.

“The foxes, raccoons, deer, turkeys and porcupines are doing a lot of damage lately. Especially the turkeys, they can be the worst,” Chuck said. “We’re getting a lot of vehicles that have hit animals coming in now that spring is here.”

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