Christians in Business: Tim Roersma, Carlisle Auto Body

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in Local

Tim Roersma225Tim Roersma, owner of Carlisle Auto Body, never planned to work in the auto body industry or start his own business, but God had other plans. While in high school, Roersma attempted to sign up for an auto mechanics class, but the class was full. The school counselor suggested he try an auto body class since it still involved working on cars. Roersma loved the class and never looked back. After studying at a tech center the last two years of high school, Roersma attended community college, and then graduated with a degree in automotive body from Ferris State University.

Roersma worked for a few local shops before his wife’s uncle approached him about starting his own company. “I had planned to work for someone else the rest of my life,” he recalled. The uncle had finances and passion to fund the startup, but no practical auto body work experience. Another partner provided a building. Roersma supplied the experience, and the three drew up papers and started Carlisle Auto Body thirty years ago.

Within the first year, Roersma realized he was capable of running a successful company on his own and decided to buy out his partners. “It was scary, buying them out,” Roersma said. God continued to provide, and the business took off.

Six years later, Roersma reluctantly moved the business to their current location on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids. “I didn’t want to move to Division Avenue, especially this section. At that time, between these two traffic lights [68th St and 76th St], there were 28 body shops,” he explained. Roersma feared people would “shop” the businesses and just look for the cheapest deal. “Today there are less than half that amount [of body shops] here. The Lord has blessed us to be here this long,” he said.

Carlisle Auto Body specializes in all types of auto body work including: paint, accident repair, and rust damage. They also do ground-up restoration for classic cars. “While classic car restoration isn’t a priority, we do enjoy them,” Roersma said.

Customer care is a high priority for Roersma. “When I went into business, I said I want to treat every customer the way I would want to be treated,” he said. He and his two employees treat each customer with respect, honoring their word, and sometimes even offering the customer a ride home.

The business has always been a family operation for Roersma. All three of his sons worked for him at some point in time. Each son started by doing janitorial work and worked their way up. Roersma wanted each of his sons learn the basic skills and develop a mechanical intuition.

Roersma acknowledges his dependence on the Lord’s provision for his business. “When the checkbook is getting thin, that’s when the Lord tells me I’m not on my knees enough. It draws me back to him and makes me pray more and stay dependent,” he said.

Roersma experienced a number of changes over thirty years in business. In the early days he looked up parts and estimates in books and made phone calls to vendors and suppliers for parts. Today, all the information is available online and estimates are e-mailed. Cars have experienced drastic changes as well with many more electronic parts. “Bundles of wires the size of a hair are under the carpet, and there are a lot more electronics and computers on the cars to keep tabs on everything,” he explained. The shop uses computers to diagnose which sensors and parts need to be replaced.

The way business comes in changed as well. Customers used to schedule work up to two months in advance. Today, work is scheduled week-by-week, requiring a lot more faith for Roersma. He may come into work on a Friday and have an empty calendar for the next week. However, by the end of the day the next week is filled with appointments. “It’s not my doing, it’s the Lord bringing work in,” he said.

As he looks to the future, and potential retirement, Roersma hopes to transition the business to his oldest son, Patrick. “He has stepped up and fills in and takes over writing estimates and handling vendors when I’m running parts. He’s learning all the parts of the business,” Roersma said. Faithfulness to and thankfulness for the work will continue to remain at the center of all Roersma does.

At a Glance:

Name Tim Roersma
Company: Carlisle Auto Body
Title: Owner
Family: Wife, Linda; 3 adult sons
Address: 7442 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49548
Phone: (616) 281-1001

Author Information
Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes lives in West Michigan with her husband and two young children. She is a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul's books Here Comes the Bride and Inspiration for Writers. Her essays have appeared on the Burnside Writers Collective and Catapult Magazine. Her first book, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing life together in an all-about-me kind of world encourages women to reach out to their communities and live an authentic life together.

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