Ladysmith’s family owned and operated collision repair centre, Little Valley Restorations is celebrating 40 years in business.
John and Jackie Neil purchased the land that Little Valley sits on with the intent to live on the property. It was a perfect location: Jackie had space for her horses, and John had space for a garage to paint motorcycles and hot-rods. The six acre property was also an ideal place to raise their young children, Travis, Sheena and Janna.
In the beginning, the family lived in a cottage on the property, and John worked out of a small two bay garage doing hobby work. Eventually, he was getting more work than he could keep up with, so John quit his job and turned his hobby into a business.
“I came home and told Jackie I quit my job. She almost killed me,” John said. “With a $30,000 loan from the bank I built the first part of the shop, and started working on all these cars. Then I needed some help, so I hired a young guy named Andrew, who’s still here after 40 years.”
The business progressed from there. Staff went from eating lunch in the family house – with lunches lovingly made by Jackie – to building a small office building with a lunch room in it.
“It evolved over the years, we had a couple more children, and the business expanded. It just kept growing and growing, now we have 14 employees total.”
As the shop got bigger, the Neils made other improvements to the property. John built Jackie a barn, and the couple built a log cabin at the back of the property where they now live. They also have a small hobby farm on the back of the property where they’ve raised all sorts of animals over the years.
Sheena said that growing up around Little Valley was a lot of fun.
“We were always outside playing, and the guys always treated us great. As we got older I started cleaning the office for some extra money on Fridays,” Sheena said.
Travis also got into the entrepreneurial spirit. He used to sell chips, chocolate bars, and pop to the staff in the lunch room when he was young.
“We’d go to Costco to get a flat of chocolate bars, chips, and pop, then sell them for a dollar each,” he said. “Made myself some comic book money.”