A commemorative certificate hangs in the office of Elite Collision Center dated March 11, 2003, signed by then-Mayor John Idsinga, thanking the business for its investment in the community by its recent establishment.
Now, nearly 15 years later, Elite Collision is still running strong in the community, with company President Kevin Morse mentioning they had a record year in sales in 2017. On a visit by The Reflector Feb. 28 the parking lot for the center as well as other nearby automotive businesses was packed with cars; inside the business were several vehicles in a variety of work stages, the occasional flash of a welding torch sparking up during work.
“Time went fast,” Morse remarked about the past 15 years.
Though celebrating Elite’s 15th anniversary this year the Morse’s have been in business in Battle Ground for about 40 years for all of their endeavors. Morse’s father, Art Sr., had opened Art Morse Auto Repair in 1991 on land adjacent to Elite, he said.
Originally where Elite sits was a house built toward the start of the 20th century, a house that Morse and his wife, Deana (the secretary/treasurer of Elite), lived in for a few years prior to its demolition and the construction of the business.
Back when the first business by the Morse family was going up it was still “all field” on that leg of state Route 502 save for Rocky’s Pizza. Now there’s “Battle Ground’s own mini-mall” for automotive needs where Elite is located, backed up by tire, oil and mechanical businesses in the same area.
As a Battle Ground native and BGHS graduate Morse noted what many who have spent more than a few years in the city do — it’s gone from incredibly rural to a mix of urban and rural developments.
“Our theme in 1990 for our graduating class was ‘we’ve got sidewalks,’” Morse remarked. Though he’s had a front-row seat to the changes on Main Street, he said that the city has “grown right” as it has maintained much of the small-town feel of its early character.
In its current growing situation Morse said Battle Ground was a nice balance of small-town familiarity while maintaining a big enough market for Elite’s business to thrive, to “be small enough to have people still be a name, but be big enough to be able to do a service for them that’s professional.”
“We’re not just a blip on the map any more, we show up,” Morse said, explaining that beyond the city’s population of over 20,000, thousands of North County residents were also included in their main service area.
Though in the first decade the business had a significant expansion with the addition of an auto spa, the past five years have been more staying the course while meeting growing needs, Morse explained. Now that they have been in operation for long enough it’s more about maintaining service with some minor tweaks such as reinvestment in some equipment and the addition of some covered carports in the parking lot.
Though things are going good now, Morse recounted how when initially opening up Elite, with millions in investment funding and the limited sales of a new business he admitted uncertainty moving forward with the business.
“Fifteen years later, we have limited parking,” Morse said as a testament to their business, especially during the winter with road hazards leading to collisions that Elite can fix.
In those 15 years and the years prior working with his family’s other businesses, Morse has learned a winning formula when it comes to success.
“You got to take care of the customer. You got to produce a quality product. You got to hire great people around you. It’s a good success model for business,” Morse said, commenting on a “Team Morse” culture among him and the 17 full-time employees of the business.
In celebration of its 15-year milestone Elite Collision will host an event at the business March 16 raffle prizes, food and tours of the facility, all with a theme befitting of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
“We just wanted to give a little thanks back to the community for 15 years of great support,” Morse said.
Though the event is one conspicuous way of giving back, in any of those businesses his family has ran or currently runs Morse said each had always tried to reinvest in the community, whether it be sponsoring Little League baseball teams, involvement in the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce or support of the Rocksolid Community Youth Center to name a few.
There aren’t any monumental shifts in the business model for the next 15 years, as Morse explains they will keep doing what has proven successful in the past decade-and-a-half.
“We are doing really good where we’re at,” Morse said. “I just want to continue growing the business and doing exactly what we are doing.”