When Elmer Steffen started his auto body shop and collision repair in 1926, life in Elkhart was a bit different. For the previous eight years, Elmer had been working at the Crow Elkhart Manufacturing Plant as a body seam sealer, learning a trade that he recognized was as much an art as it was a craft.
Despite the turmoil of the great depression, Elmer’s business was growing, and he made the commitment to expand. In 1935 he decided to build a new facility and met with members of Macumber Construction. With a handshake and a promise to repay the debt, he had his new facility.
The new facility proved to be exactly what was needed, and in the coming years saw considerable growth even through the troubled World War II era. Fortunately America came through World War II doing just fine, and so did Elmer’s Body Shop. Elmer’s son Ralph had served his country in the European Theater, and Elmer served his country at home.
In 1948 it was time to expand again, and the business added a new building that provided indoor storage and frame repair.
By 1955 America had become a shaping force in the world, and it demonstrated the American entrepreneurial spirit for growth along with the desire for the Democratic Process to liberate the world. Ten years after World War II had ended change and growth was again to come to Elmer’s Body Shop when Elmer’s son, Ralph, took over as the proprietor of the business nearly 30 years after its beginnings. That same year, Elmer’s Body Shop again expanded to incorporate brake and alignment services.
In the coming years America grew and Elmer’s Body Shop did as well. Under Ralph’s leadreship, Elmer’s Body Shop was able to satisfy customers and their evolving tastes. While Elmer’s experienced growth, it was a growth that could only be experienced through the growth of second generation ownership. Like Elmer, Ralph carved out his niche in his own unique way. At the same time he was take pride in the fact that his son Tim was getting involved in the family business as well.
Through the ’60s and ’70s Tim learned the trade much the way his father had, learning from his father and through hard work and determination to do what is best for the customer.
In 1978 Tim got his opportunity to take his turn at running the family business, and Elmer’s Body Shop entered its third generation of family ownership. Tim guided Elmer’s through the late ’70s and ’80s, following the same course of growth that the previous family members had set. He continued to expand the business, and in 1984, realizing that the existing facilities were inadequate for the level of production and quality Elmer’s was used to, he moved Elmer’s Body Shop to its present location at 320 East Lexington.
Elmer’s Body Shop has existed at that location for nearly 20 years, continuing to satisfy to the publics’ need for high quality repairs in a timely efficient manner, and always seeking to achieve the invisible repair.