“In life you have to take chances. Sometimes the biggest risk you can take is not taking one,” said Rachel Hinojosa. Last year, she and her husband Rene Moreno opted to take a more active risk with their business SS Auto Body Solutions.
In November 2017, one year after the couple had opened SS Auto Body Solutions in Harlingen, they jumped at the opportunity to lease a Mercedes building with a paint booth, and relocated to Business 83. “Most of our customers followed us. We still do work for Charlie Clark Nissan and other dealerships. Locally, Mercedes has been great. I know everybody here. Word-of-mouth keeps bringing in more customers.”
Hinojosa classified Rene as the risk-taker while she, who worked in banking customer relations for 10 years, is the cautious one, a very organized person. “It balances out.”
SS stands for Southern Style, because Moreno does restoration of classic cars as well as standard collision auto body work. “This is his industry, what he knows and loves,” Hinojosa said. She takes care of customer service, clerical and financials while he manages the work floor.
“Running your own business is not easy but early this summer, it was to the point where I was comfortable” in the new location, she said. Then on June 20, Mercedes received upwards of 14 inches of rain in a short period. Water flooded through the body shop three feet deep. A tree trunk came through the office wall, and flood waters buckled the shop’s overhead doors. Flood waters pushed cars being worked on against a wall. Shop supplies and equipment were ruined. Crates of files holding receipts and tax records were submerged.
“When we were hit by the flood, it was back to square one,” Hinojosa recalled. “Looking at everything, I thought to myself, it’s over. We’re done.” She held her hand at a knee-high water mark on a door, above the electrical outlets. Despite the business being about one-half mile from the floodway, that was no help given the volume and force of floodwater. “It’s just a shocker.”
“Rene stood outside across the street waiting for the water to go down so he could go in,” Hinojosa said. He then power washed the whole building. “We had to throw everything away: paints, drills, fans, sandpaper, all of it was submerged. I don’t know how many bottles of Clorox we bought.”
SS Auto Body had general liability insurance, which doesn’t cover floods. But the couple couldn’t wait around for the building owner to make repairs. So, for more than two weeks the business was in clean-up mode, focused on getting the company up and running as fast as possible.
“Our main concern was our customers’ vehicles. Even when the business was not making money, we still had our guys here and had to pay them and check customers’ vehicles. It’s been tough,” admitted Hinojosa, the mother of three. “It humbles you. It makes you appreciate what you had and know that you shouldn’t get used to material things because they could be gone in second. It teaches you about having faith. We did lose a lot, but we still have each other.”
“Luckily I have good credit. I was able to purchase the tools and reorder parts and paints, sandpapers,” Hinojosa said. “Rene never told me anything negative. He said we were going to get through it and don’t worry. We did oil and transmission flushes on everything that could have been damaged.” The few total losses were cars stored outside that were covered by the owners’ insurance.
As soon as they re-opened, customers called SS and no one was turned away. “We figured, when a business is at its lowest, you have to advertise. We have an alignment special to get customers coming in,” she said. Football stadium ads, fliers at street festivals and more are contributing to the buzz.