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Mark’s Auto Body celebrates 25 years in Solon

Mark Divoky and his auto body shop have been staples since 1989
Mark Divoky and his daughter, Danielle Hansel, in front of the shop at 132 E. Short St. in Solon. Danielle has worked with her father since 2007. (photo by Jen Moore)

SOLON- Twenty-five years ago, it would have taken Mark Divoky over an hour just to do a simple estimate on a car brought into the shop. Everything had to be done by hand, from figuring out prices to looking up the parts needed.
Now, with the evolution of technology, that process takes just 15 minutes.
“When I first started, we didn’t have computers,” Divoky said. “ But now, everything’s in there– our estimating software, our parts list, everything. If we’re working on something and we have a question about how to tear it apart, you can get on the Internet and you’ll have an answer.”
Mark’s Auto Body, owned by Solon native Divoky, turned 25 years old this year, a milestone he attributes largely to the support of the community.
He has a loyal customer base, some of them out-of-town clients who choose to forgo the larger shops Cedar Rapids or Iowa City just to have their cars worked on by him and his staff.
“If there’s a problem, they’re not afraid to come to me and tell me about it and have me fix it,” He said. “It’s part of being in a small town. They’d rather stick with someone they know is here. (In) some of the big shops, you very seldom see the owner.”
Working with the public and the community is one of Divoky’s favorite parts of owning the business. The bulletin board in the main office is adorned with thank you cards from local organizations his shop has donated to, and Divoky likes to have genuine conversations with every customer who walks through his doors.
“I really just enjoy the people. You’ll see someone and they recognize you outside of here; it’s great,” Divoky said. “The community has been very good to me and has helped me prosper and do well.”
Divoky’s daughter, Danielle Hansel, has worked in the main office since 2007 and understands her father’s love of working with the public. She began working for him after her graduation from the University of Northern Iowa with plans to only stay until she figured out what she wanted to do career-wise, but the experience she’s had so far has made it hard to leave.
“I like working in a small town and the customers. And it’s nice working with family and getting to work for my dad,” she said.
But with all this experience and knowledge, the auto industry wasn’t even Divoky’s first calling. He originally worked with his father and brother in the farming industry. But, when the farming crisis of the 1980’s hit Iowa, it became difficult to support three families on one plot of land.
So, Divoky made the decision to leave the industry, ensuring that his father and brother could continue farming and “get a bigger slice of the pie,” he said.
Having always enjoyed tinkering around with cars in the garage, he enrolled in Kirkwood College’s collision program and worked part-time at a nearby shop. After graduation, he accepted a full time position with the shop, working there for five years before making the decision to go off on his own.
Now, his business has expanded from just himself to five technicians, plus Hansel. He moved to his current building in 1993, adding on three times and opening a paint shop across the street. In the late 1990’s, Mark’s Auto Body also began doing repairs on semi-trucks from several truck companies, a move that had significant impacts on the company’s revenue.
But growth hasn’t been without a few challenges. As materials in vehicles change, so have the methods and equipment used to fix them. Unlike when Divoky first began, many cars are now made up of a lot of plastic and aluminum, whereas older cars were comprised of mostly steel. These new materials are harder to repair and, most times, have to be replaced instead.
“A lot more things are more throwaway now than how they used to be,” Divoky said. “There’s been a lot of change to increase gas mileage. A lot of the materials are lighter and stronger and there’s just not a lot of repair to them.”
And if an issue comes from the electronics in the car, it almost always has to be repaired by the dealership because of the kinds of programs required to fix it.
“A lot of the cars we work on now, the electronics have become more sophisticated than the first spaceship that landed on the moon,” Divoky said.
But, that’s not to say that he and his team aren’t equipped to handle most problems car owners throw their way. Continuing education has been key in keeping up with the changes in the auto industry, and the employees of Mark’s Auto Body often take several classes each year so they can continue to adapt to a changing auto industry.
And after 25 years, Divoky has no plans on stopping anytime soon. Even once he retires, he hopes Mark’s Auto Body continues on in Solon.
“I hope to keep it going,” Divoky said. “Someday I’ll retire and I hope that someone will take it over and keep it going. It requires a lot to keep it open, but it’s really been good.”
Mark’s Auto Body , located at 132 East Short Street in Solon, is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those with inquiries can reach Mark’s Auto Body by calling (319) 624-3553.