Walcha Smash Repairs closing down an end of an era

Time for a change: Vicki and Charlie Szpitalak with Rex outside their Smash Repair business. The couple are closing shop after accepting an offer to buy their property.
Time for a change: Vicki and Charlie Szpitalak with Rex outside their Smash Repair business. The couple are closing shop after accepting an offer to buy their property.

After 37 years in the business, Walcha Smash Repairs will be closing its doors on March 19.

Proprietors Charlie and Vicki Szpitalak say they will miss their clients, but it is time for them to take a well-earned break.

“We have enjoyed looking after our customers and would like to thank them for their continued support over the years,” said Vicki.

Charlie came to Walcha in the late 70’s, and after several visits, he decided to open up a smash repair business in 1980.

“I enjoyed the people and the community and soon decided to relocate my business from Penrith to Walcha,” he said. 

“I love Walcha, love the bush, and don’t want to leave.”

After taking an extended holiday, Charlie plans to continue operating his tow truck and doing air conditioning and private smash repair work.

“Even after 46 years in the trade I still love my work, and I get a kick out of seeing something that I have fixed. I can’t tell you how many cars I have repaired over the years,” he said.

Charlie has trained numerous apprentices over the years as well including current employees Matthew Starr, who is a tradesman spray painter who has been with the company for 13 years, and Justin Lewis a second-year apprentice panel beater.

The couple moved their business from its original location in Hamilton Street to the current location in North Street in 1985 after Charlie had finished building the new shed.

While Charlie had the vehicle repair knowledge, Vicki’s administration skills were integral to the successful operation of the business. 

“I have seen significant changes over the last 35 years,” she said. 

“Everything was hand written when I started including quotes, invoicing, paying bills and all insurance companies would send out assessors to assess insurance claims. With the introduction of computers and the internet, all insurance claims are now done digitally with a desktop assessment.”

The biggest change on Charlie’s side was the purchase of a spray booth which allows cars to be painted in any weather, even cold Walcha winters.

After vacating the premises on North Street the Szpitalaks plan to buy a caravan and tour Australia.