Thursday, November 27, 2014

New body shop puts custom spin on county’s classic Bowling brand

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 1/27/2014

Ryan Bowling jokes he had to fix all of his early automobiles before he really could put the pedal to the metal.

“I couldn’t just start it up and drive home,” Bowling said. “I had to get a tow truck to bring it home.”

Ryan Bowling jokes he had to fix all of his early automobiles before he really could put the pedal to the metal.

“I couldn’t just start it up and drive home,” Bowling said. “I had to get a tow truck to bring it home.”

Beginning restoration work on vehicles when he was 14, Bowling has come a long way. He and his wife, Megan, now own and operate Bowling Collision and Custom body shop at 530 N. Main St., Ottawa. The recently opened business’ crown jewel might be its FGS Downdraft Bake Paint Booth, which allows for a faster, more efficient paint job, the Bowlings said.

The shop’s early success might owe a little credit to the owners’ family name, they said. Ryan Bowling is the son of former Franklin County Sheriff Rex Bowling, who was in law enforcement for 30 years and served seven terms for the sheriff’s office. Megan Bowling said she thinks the longtime sheriff’s good reputation affects the younger Bowling’s new company.

“When we were naming the business, we we’re trying to decide. I encouraged him by saying, ‘Your dad left a legacy for you,’” she said. “He worked hard for it.”

Along with leaving a name with which the community can identify, Ryan Bowling credits his love of cars to his father, who bonded with him by fixing up cars when he was young.

“His dad didn’t have a lot of time to spend at home,” Megan Bowling said. “When Ryan hauled that [first] car home they really kind of dove into it.”

Megan Bowling said her own father also has been a helpful influence for their business endeavor. When she was growing up, her father, Butch Bazil, worked at Construction Materials, Inc., and she spent a lot of time around the labor workforce.

“Growing up in a lumber yard for me, it’s kind of a man’s world,” she said. “My dad never said, ‘You’re just a girl.’ He taught me his trade.”

The Bowlings aren’t afraid to do the same for their two young girls, Emma, 5, and Kate, 3. Megan Bowling said Emma already is planning to work at the family business.

“She says she’s going to paint cars when she grows up,” she said with a laugh. “And I believe her.”

Ryan Bowling previously worked at another auto shop, where he began his career.

His love of classic cars runs in his family, he said, and in the Bowlings’ office stands a collage of photos of past generation family members standing in front of their vehicles.

The Bowlings said they pride themselves on keeping their business local.

“We were reminded of how great it is to live in a small town.” Megan Bowling said. “So many people came to offer encouraging words and lend a helping had to get up and going. We wanted to get back to that small-town feel.”

Bud Wadkins, who previously worked with Ryan Bowling, also has joined the shop, adding the expertise of a friend and a mentor.

“Bob’s a landmark,” Ryan Bowling said.

“We’ve learned so much from him,” Megan Bowling said. “We’re glad he decided to join us.”

The Bowlings aren’t resting after opening their business. They’re dreaming up new goals — like potentially developing a program with Ottawa High School to help teach students the trade of auto body work.

“I always wanted to learn more, and I had a lot of people to look up to in this town,” Ryan Bowling said. “They’re mentors, I suppose.”

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