Hamilton body shop celebrates 80 years in business

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Hamilton Family Business Has Endured Many Eras

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

In the 80 years since George Ritzi and Charlie Hogan founded Ritzi Body Shop near the corner of Main and E streets, a lot has changed.

The cars are very different, and the business now is in the hands of the Ritzi family’s third and fourth generations. And certainly the feel of Main Street has changed since 1937.

The business passed from George Ritzi to his son, Paul Ritzi Sr.; and then his son, Paul Ritzi Jr., who still runs the business with his son, Nick Ritzi.

“I’d pretty much come down here after school every day, and then all summer,” said Paul Jr., a 1974 Badin High School graduate, who has worked there since about 1968.

Nick, a 2002 Badin grad, started working at the shop in about January 2001.

Originally, “it was a body shop, mechanic shop, auto repair,” said Paul Jr., who took over ownership in 1991. The company has three other employees aside from the two Ritzis.

Running a family body shop was better, “before the insurance companies started telling you what to do,” Paul Ritzi said. But: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. I wouldn’t change anything.”

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One advantage of the family ownership, Nick Ritzi said, is, “I depend on my father, my father depends on his son.”

“Owning your own business, there’s a lot more responsibility. You pretty much control what comes in, what goes out,” his father said. “What you make, what you don’t make.”

Cars are a lot easier for professionals to fix these days, Paul Ritzi said: “Automobiles right now are so much easier, to me, to work on than they used to be.”

That’s most likely because “the dealerships got tired of the difficulty, so they started designing them to be (more easily fixed),” he said.

Also, these days, “there’s a lot of take-apart and put-together, whereas back in the day, you straightened just about everything,” Paul Ritzi said. “You don’t bend things back into place like you used to back then, because of the high-strength steel.”

And today’s plastic fenders “are just skins — all the power is what they’re bolted to,” he said. “When they get bent, you just take them off, throw them away and you get a new one, because you can’t do anything with it, because it’s so thin.”

Cars also are built “a hell of a lot better than they used to be,” Paul Ritzi said.

The neighborhood around the body shop also has changed, and Paul Ritzi said he is proud with the way city leaders have developed the area.

The next goal for the business? Making it to 100 years, Paul Ritzi said, although he expects to retire before then.

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