Other businesses pitch in after car repair shop burns

Frank Kolosky, left, owner of University Collision Center at 2700 NW 74th Place, and his son, Patrick Kolosky, the general manager, read information on a vehicle at the shop, Wednesday, December 26, 2012 in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.

After 12 years of leasing, on Sept. 12 Frank Kolosky was able to buy the 10,000-square-foot building and more than an acre of property that houses his business, University Collision Center. Two weeks later, a devastating fire caused $650,000 worth of damage to the building and equipment, shutting the business down.

With a little help from his friends, Kolosky operated out of borrowed space while rebuilding the business and is now back in full operation.

Kolosky had just left for the day that Friday evening in September. He got a call from his neighbor, Doug Stone of University Towing and Transport, about 25 minutes later telling him his building was on fire. Kolosky said something to the effect of “quit messing around,” hinting that the language might have been stronger.

Stone wasn’t kidding.

University Collision sits part way down Northwest 74th Place, a dead-end road lined with warehouses and industrial businesses across the railroad track that parallels U.S. 441 on the north side of town.

As he returned, Kolosky said he could see the smoke from U.S. 441.

Flames shot through a skylight and black smoke billowed into the sky, according to Gainesville Fire Rescue. Inside, firefighters faced near blackout conditions.

The fire was out within 20 minutes, but not before warping the bay doors and igniting one car. The heat and smoke damaged frame machines, welding equipment and equipment used to measure auto dimensions.

“It looked like a bomb went off in here to be honest with you,” Kolosky said.

Security video showed that welding had smoldered and ignited carpet pieces that had been taken out of a car.

That night, as friends and family pulled out the 20 cars that University Collision had been working on and started washing them, Rick Moore of University Towing offered Kolosky the use of a building used to maintain tow trucks. Kolosky set up an office there and moved the 20 cars in to complete the body work.

“It’s one of those things when something like that happens that everybody who can help out helps out,” said Moore, who started University Collision with Kolosky before selling him his interest.

Gary Anderson of Sunshine State Lawn Service offered a warehouse for storage since everything had to be removed from the building.

Kolosky said the car that caught fire belonged to a friend, who he said was very understanding. None of the customers whose cars were in the shop took their cars away. Other customers who read about the fire in the newspaper or saw it on television called to see if everyone was OK. Some brought by cookies. He was able to start moving back into the building in mid-November. All 11 employees returned when business resumed.

Reflecting on the response, Kolosky said, “You get that big lump in your throat.”

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