Achieving the “American Dream” does not come without hard work and sacrifice, and (most certainly) it does not happen overnight. In 1982, at the age of 20, Oscar Amaya was living in his home country of El Salvador. At the time, the country was at war. With his father’s blessing, Oscar made the decision to flee from the country and come to the United States. Fortunately, prior to leaving El Salvador, he had gained a very valuable skill. During his 7-9th grade school years, he attended a trade school to learn how to do autobody work. Little did he know learning this craft would prepare him for a successful career.
Once he arrived in the U.S., Oscar wanted to put his learned skill to work, but quickly discovered that, in order to do this, he would have to have his own tools. He took a job at the Monterey Mushrooms plant in Madisonville, and he worked there for about three years, long enough to save some money. Then, he went to work for a local auto dealer; however, in the early 80s, the economy was not in a good place, and dealerships were struggling to stay open. Soon Oscar found himself unemployed, but by this time, he had earned a good reputation as a reliable autobody repairperson in that area. One day, he was approached by Mr. Nelson Drake, owner of Drake’s Mechanic Shop, and offered a job and an opportunity for a partnership. He accepted the position, and as part of their agreement, he would earn 50/50 from the labor. It wasn’t long before they were able to expand the business to include autobody repair, and eventually renamed it Drake’s Collision Center, which is still in business today. Overall, Oscar lived in Madisonville for 12 years before moving to Huntsville. By this time, the 12-year war in El Salvador was coming to an end, but not before claiming the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. (CJA.org/El Salvador).
In 1999, Oscar decided to venture out on his own and moved to Huntsville to start his own business. Huntsville was a bigger town with more opportunities. He also felt it was a great place to raise a family, which was important to him, because he already had a family of his own. After searching and finding the right location for his new business, Amaya’s Collision Center was inaugurated at 686 I-45 South, Huntsville, TX 77340, the same place where it is today. According to Oscar, he started off with only three employees and his brother Nelson, who would work there part-time to help out. Oscar’s reputation as a trusted autobody repairman preceded him, and the business began to prosper.
Amaya’s Collision Center is a small, family owned and operated business. For the past 20+ years, Oscar has paved the way for his older son and namesake to one day take over the business. Currently, they work side by side and have a team of 17 employees who are highly trained in the most up-to-date methods of collision repair. Each team member receives yearly training and is certified through Gold Class I-Car Collision Repair. Prior to the pandemic, they had a team of over 20, but at the beginning of the 2020, their work declined, “because no one was driving,” said Oscar (son), “but it’s amazing how God works. That year, there was an unprecedented hailstorm. For us, that hailstorm was a Godsend, because without it, we may not still be here. It brought stability to our work, and it has gradually been getting back to normal, especially since everything has re-opened. We are very grateful for our team members,” Oscar (son) added. “In appreciation for all they do every year, Amaya’s Collision Center hosts a Christmas Banquet for the employees and their families. Everyone gets to mingle, participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange, and just have a great time.”
Although RV repair is not something they advertise, nor is it Amaya’s specialization, they do provide this service as well. In fact, in the future, Oscar plans to include RV repair as part of their routine repair service. They have also dabbled in boat and jet ski repair, since these also are made of fiberglass. Besides autobody repair services, Amaya’s also has a mechanic onsite for general tune ups (does not rebuild engines or transmissions), collision repair and painting, and much more. Their parts are ordered from local parts stores and dealerships. According to Oscar (son), the majority of their repairs come from insurance claims, but he added they get a lot of “out-of-pocket” claims as well. “Simple things such as door dings, bumper, or grill replacements. People sometimes prefer to pay for these rather than deal with having their insurance premiums increase because they filed a claim.”
When Mr. Amaya arrived in Huntsville, he said he didn’t know anyone. He had to work hard to earn people’s trust and respect as a reputable autobody specialist. At the time, there were other well-established autobody shops in the area, but he believes, “The only competition we have is with ourselves. The idea is to strive to do your best work and find ways to improve on that each time.” Over the years, Mr. Amaya has been able to build a good rapport with his customers. They know him and rely on the quality of his work. His customers have been loyal and often refer their friends and family.
Amaya’s Collision Center is a member of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce. As a way of “paying it forward,” Mr. Amaya would like to create an opportunity for high school students who, for personal or financial reasons, are unable to go to college, to learn all that is involved in repairing, refinishing, or replacing the bodies and frames of damaged vehicles. Those interested will be able to learn and get paid while they learn. Currently, they have one employee who is a student at Sam Houston State University, and a recent Huntsville High School graduate who has been accepted to Universal Technical Institute. Both students are gaining experience in autobody repair at Amaya’s Collision Center. Whether it’s a career choice, or simply an interest in the craft, the knowledge and skills they gain will be invaluable.
Located off the freeway, it’s not uncommon for passersby to drive into their parking lot and ask for help. Frequently, it’s just a flat tire, and Amaya’s crew is always willing to lend a hand. Last year, during the pandemic, “a woman came in and said her blinker lights were not working” said Oscar (son). “She was worried she would get stopped by a police officer. She was driving an old 80s Chevy van, and it was apparent she was living out of her van. It was right at closing time, but we really wanted to help her out, so we ordered the part from a local parts store, and it was delivered in less than 15 minutes. We replaced it and fixed the problem. It’s good to help people in their time of need, without expecting anything in return.”
When he is not at work, Mr. Amaya serves as a pastor of the Huntsville Pentecostal Church for the Spanish-speaking members. He has been a pastor for the past 7 years. He and his parishioners are searching for a place to relocate, but in the meantime, the floor room at Amaya’s Collision Center is transformed into their house of worship, at least until they are able to find a new location. Oscar (son) is following in dad’s footsteps, not only in his drive for business, but also as a spiritual leader. He attends Abundant Life Church in Willis, and serves as a youth pastor for his church.
Mr. Amaya is happily married to Lucy, his wife of 14 years. Together, they have a son named Sam. He is 13, and goes to school at Huntsville Junior High. Mr. Amaya is also the proud father of 3 other children from a previous marriage. Elizabeth, the oldest, is a practicing attorney in Florida. Celene is an RN in the Conroe area, but she and her son Isaac live in Huntsville. Oscar (son), the youngest, attended Sam Houston State University and obtained his degree in business management. He is married and also lives in Huntsville.
Oscar Amaya may not have initially come to the U.S. in search of the American Dream, but his hard work and perseverance helped him find it.
To find out more about their services, visit: www.amayascollision.com, or call: 936.295.6556.
686 Interstate 45 South
Huntsville, TX 77340