There’s fresh relief on the horizon for would-be automotive bodies beautiful in the Central Catskills: Ben Krom is already lining up customers for West Branch Collision and Classics, now open at 60 Delaware Street in Walton. The Watershed Post chatted with Krom on the day he finally got his paint booth set up.
Watershed Post: So you restore classic autos?
BK: That and a bunch more – anything from antique car restoration to insurance work, touchups and deer hits. We’ve got state of the art equipment in a 7,000 square foot shop – a brand new paint booth and the ability to do aluminum welding. Besides cars, I can make your vintage Americana or outdoor furniture look great. If it needs metalwork or painting, bring it on.
WP: So what’s your background in this type of work?
BK: I’ve been doing auto body work since 1996. I worked in many shops in Oneonta, and I’ve done a number of nice restorations. It’s a passion, I guess, and I have a knack for it. I’m ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) certified in four different areas of expertise, and I have my Sickens and PPG paint certifications. It is an art; there’s more to restoring a car than the basics of metalwork and painting.
WP: People on Facebook seem kinda excited that you’re open.
BK: Facebook has been amazing. We put a paid ad on there and reached 26,300 people so far – the page has exploded. There are people in Germany and Japan who’ve taken notice. But what probably matters more is that I’ve been an active member of the Walton community for years – I was president of the Walton Nursery School for three years, Cubmaster of Pack 245 for two, and I’ve been on the Hamden planning board for seven.
My philosophy of life is very much about giving back to the community, and I’ve already started running the business that way too. We already made our first charitable contribution, to the American Cancer Society’s Chinese Auction, we’re getting involved in the United Methodists’ baked ham dinner.
Then, too, there’s a business ethic that’s consistent with that. I pride myself on friendliness and courtesy and on-time, top quality service, and it can be hard to find all of that in one place.
WP: And you’ve been in Walton how long? Where’d you come from?
BK: I’m originally from Syracuse. In college I got to be good friends with Jason Thomson, who’s now the superintendent of the Delhi school system. He told me I had to come see this area, and he was so right. The beauty. The fishing. It’s awesome. The name West Branch is in homage to the west branch of the Delaware – what an awesome natural resource.
WP: So do you have a dream car of your own that you’re working on?
BK: Believe it or not, I’m not so much a car guy in my personal life. I love restoring our farm house, fly fishing, playing with my ten year old. We have dogs and goats.
But I do appreciate the beauty and workmanship of a fine automotive piece. It’s nice when a customer can’t even tell a car was repaired. I strive to meet that standard and also to make absolutely certain the car is safe – there’s no compromise on that.
WP: A guy on your Facebook page endorsed you by saying that having you do his car was like being able to watch the job in person.
BK: Oh yeah, that was the ’63 split-window Corvette. He was the one who really pushed me toward opening my own business. That did come out pretty well.
I keep the lines of communication wide open by whatever method the customer prefers – text, phone, email – I give daily updates. And especially during a classic restoration, I take a lot of pictures and send those. I took around 200 pictures of that 'Vette.
WP: This should be a nice addition to the Walton business community.
BK: I certainly hope so. I’ve met lots of great people just getting the shop ready to open – I couldn’t have done it without the Delaware County economic development folks, the Delhi National Bank, and too many awesome individuals to begin to list.
As it is, I’m excited about the potential. I was just talking to a guy who has a great garage and he told me he’d send me people for body work, and I know he’s good, so I’ll be sending people over there for mechanical. We talked about how if there’s one thing we both know for certain, it’s that we’re all in this together.