Chris grew up in Yuma, Va., but spent many summers in Beckley, W. Va., where his uncle owned a body shop. His first "hands-on" experience working on a car came at the age 12 or 13. And, in Yuma, he often spent time working at his neighbor "Stack’s" body shop. Chris’ family raised tobacco and, each year, he raised extra tobacco in order to save to buy his first car, a 1967 Ford Fairlane. Another of his cars played a significant role in the establishment of DentWorx: Shelton traded a car for a 1969 Corvette, which was totaled (by another driver) almost immediately. The car was insured for $10,000. Part of the money was spent on repairs, the rest on establishing DentWorx.
Chris and Penni, a Kingsport native, were married in 1992 and started the business later that year. Being married and working together can be "challenging," but the two partnerships have remained strong for over 20 years - and their 14-year-old son, Mason, is now part of the business, too (although he prefers computers over cars).
During the early years of their marriage, Chris and Penni were often separated for months at a time when Chris worked overseas. He especially remembers his time spent in Germany.
"A holding lot of about 5,000 Volkswagens was scheduled to be sent to the U.S. and Canada when the area was hit with a huge hail storm. I worked on getting the ‘dings’ out before they shipped - and the Germans are perfectionists when it comes to their automobiles!"
Was the world travel worth it? "Most definitely," says Shelton. "Coming from Yuma, I only saw a small part of the world. Working overseas, I learned how to interact and work with people of different ages, genders, socio-economic levels and cultures. I feel I’m more rounded as an individual and technician."
Shelton believes in sharing his passion for cars with others who might be considering their options after high school.
"I was not what most people considered a great student - or even a good student," Shelton admits. "I think everyone needs to find that passion that drives them to learn and work hard. A satisfied customer is a tremendous accomplishment and exceeding customer expectations is the way to build a successful business. That doesn’t only happen in a classroom."
Shelton graduated from high school and attended Virginia Intermont College on a basketball scholarship. But over the years, he has parlayed his impressive knowledge of cars and his curiosity into world travels and sometimes dangerous adventures: Chris Shelton was once a "Hail Chaser."
"Hail chasers chase hail storms. A group of us would get a call that hail was reported or was predicted to hit a particular location, we’d arrive in the town or city, scout out a good location to set up shop, and start repairing the damaged vehicles," he explained.
In all his experience with hail storms, the most memorable - and dangerous - storm occurred around 1995 in Fort Worth, Texas, during a large outdoor event. Grapefruit-sized hail rained down on the attendees who had no place to take shelter, sending many to the hospital.
He has retired from chasing hail and stays closer to home, working with his wife, son, and four full-time employees. But the large black "Hail Repair" mobile unit is still parked nearby in the parking lot, a not-so-subtle reminder that a hail storm can suddenly appear out of nowhere - and, if it does, we are very fortunate to have an experienced hail damage repair business right in the middle of downtown Kingsport.
DentWorx is located at 901 West Center Street and provides high quality repairs and services at affordable prices. Find them on Facebook or visit their website www.DentWorx.com.