LAVA Auto Body


The LAVA name

The name “LAVA” gets more attention than I expected.  It’s just a short version of our last name, LaVanish.  It comes from the nickname, Johnny LAVA, which I’ve had for over twenty years.  When I named the shop “LAVA  Auto Body” my friends, family and I all laughed about it.  Sometimes I wish I’d been more serious in considering a name, but as it is, it still makes me grin.

 The Beginning of LAVA  Auto Body

  In 1974, after graduating from Vale Technical Institute of Blairsville, I moved to the State College area.  For the next fourteen years I worked in the body shop of a local dealership and left there to work in a local independent shop.  During those years I always tried to maintain a shop at my home to do small jobs for family and friends and an occasional restoration of an old classic.  These jobs are usually just a way to make some extra money.  I never expected one to bring such good fortune.

During the summer of 1998 I restored a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 owned by Gary Myers.  When the Shelby was done a few weeks later, Gary was pleased with the results and asked if I would be interested in expanding my part- time business into a full-time business in a building he owned.  At the time I was apprehensive about taking on the challenge.  I explained to him that I have been a technician for twenty-four years and I have no experience running a shop and no customer base to draw from.  He said, “Just do good work and treat people fairly.  You’ll be surprised at what can happen.”  So, inspired by his confidence, I opened LAVA Auto Body in March of 1999. 

 It was not the typical start-up for a business.  I had no business plan, no customer base, and no employees.  What I did have was a sign, a big empty building, and a willingness to work. Before long people began to notice my sign, and were stopping in for estimates.  I met a lot of nice people and repaired a lot of cars.  Those customers referred their friends and family to the shop and slowly the business grew to include myself and one employee.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t growing quickly enough and in 2002 we had to downsize.  We moved our office to the rear of the building and the front half of the building became West College Car Co. 

Even with our loss of road frontage exposure, our customers stayed faithful to us and kept referring their friends and family to the “hidden” shop behind West College Car Co.  Our work load continued to grow and in 2006 I hired my son, Johnny, to run the office.  Johnny excelled in his new position and successfully placed us on the “preferred shop” list of four Insurance companies.   With the office in capable hands, I was able to return to what I enjoy, doing the actual hands-on repair to damaged vehicles.

At the end of 2007 our business was thriving and we needed more space.  At the same time West College Car Co. was vacating the building, so in March of 2008 we expanded to include the front of the building.  Once again, we had the road frontage exposure so valuable for a growing business.   Since our expansion, LAVA’s has gained three more employees.  We now employ five technicians, myself included, who all share a commitment to quality repairs.

Over the past years it seems LAVA auto body has always been blessed with good fortune when it was needed.  We downsized while it was cost-effective, and expanded when it became necessary.  We’ve been fortunate in gaining the trust and faithfulness of our customers.  We’ve been very fortunate in our choice of employees, who have always been conscientious and willing to work as a team.  Mostly though, back in 1999 I was very fortunate when Gary Myers offered me the opportunity of a lifetime.  LAVA Auto Body is the result of his generosity, optimism, and his inspiring words, “Just do good work and treat people fairly.  You’ll be surprised at what can happen.”

                                                                                    John  LaVanish


LAVA Auto Body March 1999