There is never a boring day at Thurston’s Plus Auto Body and Automotive.
Jesse and Beth Wilson purchased the business in 2004. Now, 15 years later, they have undergone expansions and renovations, witnessed several changes in the way jobs are completed and have pretty much seen everything. But Beth said the business’ motto has not changed.
“We can help.”
Those three words are the mantra at Thurston’s Plus, and its something Wilson said she and her husband take great pride in — whether it’s through their business or in the community.
“We try to support any cause there is going on in town,” Beth said. “We need to support the community that has supported us.”
The Wilsons are regulars at just about any philanthropic event in town, and this past summer they donated $1,000 toward the repair of a helicopter window at the All Veterans Memorial after it was broken in an act of vandalism. They also try to shop local, buying as many parts as possible from other businesses in town.
“That parts department employs people,” Beth said. “They have homes in our community, they pay taxes in our community and they have kids that go to our schools. They are a part of our community and we need to support them.”
It isn’t only local people, however, who have been on the receiving end of the Wilsons’ generosity.
One story Beth said “makes her heart smile” was when, on Christmas Eve one year, a young couple with two small children and a dog in tow turned up at their door needing help. The family was on their way from Wichita to Kansas City during an ice storm, and a large pile-up on the turnpike claimed their Silverado as one of its victims. The Wilsons helped entertain the children and gave them Cheerios to munch on while the dog ran around the shop. It was four or five hours before their ride arrived to take them to KC.
“We just helped them out,” Beth said. “And we still get a Christmas card from them every year.”
That propensity to help has been something Beth has had within her during her entire life.
A native of Iola, she moved to Emporia to finish school in the 70s. After graduation, she worked as a dispatcher for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office before moving to Olpe with her first husband. There she ran a day care for 18 years while the couple owned a grocery store, a cafe and a video store.
She moved back to Emporia in 2000, and a few years later — in June 2004 — she and Jesse bought Thurston’s Plus.
“Jesse has done auto body since he was 17, so about 35 years,” Beth said. “I had always been a small business owner, so it just seemed natural that he runs the shop and I run the business.”
It started as just a small office and a body shop at 708 Lantern Dr., but demand soon caused them to need more space. In 2009-2010, the shop was remodeled, and in 2011, they purchased what was formerly Unruh Automotive and expanded to doing more mechanical work.
Beth said that allows them to keep more customers happy and gives them overflow space.
“We were surprised at how much people would come in for auto body and then they would come back for mechanical work,” she said.
Though Beth said there have been challenges over the years — such as finding good employees and changes in technology — they are happy to be able to help people in need.
She admitted that oftentimes, people don’t come to them in a happy mood, as they’ve typically had some sort of breakdown or been in a wreck.
“You learn over the years that sometimes people just need somebody to understand or to vent,” Beth said. “Or, they just need information because they don’t know what to do next.”
One of the phrases she often repeats — aside from the company’s tagline — is that it’s “never boring.” No two days are the same, and it’s always interesting.
“I always said that if and when we decided to sell and retire that I’ll write a book,” Beth laughed. “But we see people when they need help, when they don’t know what to do. When your basement is flooded and full of water, you call a plumber. When you’re sick, you go see a doctor. So, when your car doesn’t go from point A to point B, you go to Thurston’s Plus.”