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The Body Shop
By Molly Barari
Anyone who drives through Bradley, SD—population 72—will notice The Body Shop headquartered at 223 Main St. Look closer and you’ll notice the auto body business actually occupies an entire block on Main Street. Each building houses a specialty area of The Body Shop’s, from welding to sandblasting to electronic wiring, making The Body Shop one of the largest shops in the Midwest.
The Body Shop specializes in complete car restorations, as well as custom projects. “We have 15 cars in there now that we’re working on, each with a unique set of challenges,” said Eric Caulfield, 37, who owns The Body Shop.
Caulfield started The Body Shop in 2001, building his business gradually with attention to detail, just as he would restore a classic car. At first, his shop consisted of just one building on the southeast corner of Main Street.
“At first the shop was for one guy,” explained Caulfield. “But we got bigger and it snowballed.”
Over the next few years, Caulfield expanded his business by restoring additional buildings, including the former post office next to the original shop and the old bar owned by his family in the 1990s at the opposite end of the block. As Caulfield added staff and services, he eventually bought all the buildings along the south side of the block. About 10 years ago, he also built his own paint shop a block south of Main Street.
“Now we’re a large, high-end body shop with a six-man crew,” said Caulfield. “We have trained mechanics. We have an electronic engineer. We have guys with so much experience. One guy started his own body shop in 1976 and has been with us now for five years.”
Caulfield said having an experienced team enables the shop to tackle all kinds of restoration projects, from original to custom restorations. “We do a lot of muscle cars and a lot of antique vintage cars. We do everything from complete turnkey restorations to fuel injections to complete glass replacement to collision refinishing to custom paint and upholstery—and everything in between,” said Caulfield.
The Body Shop can also handle maintenance on cars that have already been restored. “We’ll ensure your car gets the right kind of maintenance,” he said.
Caulfield has seen a trend in the industry for “resto-mod” cars. It’s the process of taking a classic car and restoring it using the car’s original aesthetics while enjoying modern amenities. “The idea is you’ll be able to sit in your old car with the AC going and be able to answer your cell phone through the radio,” he said. “All of this without losing the styles behind these older cars. There’s an art to them.”
Caulfield has been immersed in body work since the age of 16, when he painted his first car. After high school, he studied auto body at Wyoming Tech. “I literally don’t know anything else,” he said. “And I got people to join my team that are very good at what they do. It moves our cars through the shop faster.”
The specialized team at The Body Shop includes: Caulfield, Kevin Bremon and Merlin Ritter on body work; Lance Wasland on welding; Robert Smith on sandblasting; Brad Kays on electronic wiring; and David Kays on mechanical work. Each man on the team has either been in the business his whole life or has been building street rods and other classic cars since childhood.
“It’s kind of a restoration assembly line,” said Caulfield. “We have the process down to a science. We try to run a 6-month backlog and not go any older than that. It’s important that people don’t have to wait too long to get their cars back.”
Caulfield believes The Body Shop’s quality work speaks for itself. “The stuff we do is heirloom quality. People will pass these cars on to their kids down the road. To ensure quality, we insist that our customers come back every year for maintenance. That way, we can warranty ourselves for forever,” he said.
When Caulfield is not busy working at The Body Shop, he enjoys horseback riding, dogs, hunting, and spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids. During the summer, he attends car shows all over the countryside, where he networks for The Body Shop by shaking a lot of hands and handing out pamphlets.
“Our shop pickup is the last pickup my great-grandfather bought, so of course I also dink around on that,” he said with a chuckle. “This work is my passion, and I look forward to meeting new customers.”
Caulfield said folks can see pictures of current restoration projects on The Body Shop’s Facebook page. For more information about The Body Shop, call 605-784-3496.