By Theresa Ekdom
ROSCOMMON – Two months after getting married in 1976, Jim and Laura Witt moved north from the Detroit area. They were on the North Shore of Houghton Lake, looking for a boat when they found a house for rent. They later moved to St. Helen to be closer to Jim’s work at St. Helen Auto Clinic and St. Helen Collision.
The couple lived in St. Helen for 15 years until building on Higgins Lake. Jim ran the Nester Chevrolet body shop until the spring of 1986 when he opened his own business, Jim’s Collision.
On June 3 from 12 – 7 p.m. Witt’s will be celebrating 30 years of business as Jim’s Collision. They will be hosting a customer appreciation night serving hotdogs – the same as they did on their opening day.
“We opened June 2, 1986, I remember the day well!” Laura said.
Months after opening their business, the Witts started expanding.
“We started adding on before our first year,” Jim said. “We continued to expand through the support of our customers.”
This expansion included moving from auto repair work to fiberglass, boat and RV repair. While Jim’s Collision is primarily a body shop, Jim’s background is in antique restoration.
“I’m the third generation; my grandfather (Ray Witt) did restoration for Henry Ford museum,” Jim said.
Jim also worked with his dad, Fred Witt. And now he is working with his two boys, Steven and Patrick, and a daughter-in-law, Kara. He also employs Jeanni Cavenaugh and Adam Stever at the body shop.
“The boys have been there since the beginning,” Laura said.
“Currently (they) are taking over,” Jim added. “We spend four months living on a boat in the Caribbean.”
“I haven’t retired yet,” he continued. “They still have me ‘push the broom and mow the grass’!”
While running their business for 30 years, and opening other businesses (Choice Fiberglass and Choice Industrial Solution), Jim and Laura still have time for community service.
“We’ve sponsored the 4th of July fireworks at least 20 years,” Laura said.
They were the Chamber Citizens of the Year in 2002. Jim has been a member of Roscommon Rotary and past president of Rotary. Laura is a past Rotary citizen of the year. In 2005 Jim was recognized as the #1 Auto Body Technician in the country from three national organizations.