CENTRAL SIOUX—Three rural businesses in Central Sioux acquired new owners on Jan. 1.
Arlin and Janene Van Gorp sold their businesses — Countryside Body Shop, Countryside Signs and A&J Self Storage — to Sioux County natives Joel and Allison De Weerd.
The Countryside Body Shop name is now JJ Customs Autobody & Sales. Countryside Signs and A&J Self Storage will remain the same.
“This transition means everything,” said Joel De Weerd. “I had been looking to come back to the area for six years now. We are thrilled to be back and raising our son around family and friends.
“Growing up in this area, I always admired what Arlin and Janene did. Not just as business owners, but as church leaders and friends. It’s the biggest dream come true to be able to keep adding to what they’ve built. I know we have huge shoes to fill, but we are ready to work and are excited to give the community another 40 years of service.
Arlin Van Gorp opened Countryside Body in 1983.
“I grew up just four and a half miles east of here in a dairy and decided at around 12 that wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” said Van Gorp.
He went to Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon for part of his junior and senior years in high school, graduated in 1974, and started working at J&R Bodyshop in Orange City. After about four years, he worked at Siouxbody Shop in Sioux Center until he opened his own business.
In 1994, he bought J&R Bodyshop, changing its name to Elite Auto Body. He owned this business for 12 years before selling it to his store manager.
“I started my shop because I wanted to be my own boss,” he said.
Van Gorp, 67, was 27 when he made the move – the same age Joel is currently.
“It was a leap of faith as a young man; I’m also excited to give Joel this next stepping stone. said Van Gorp. “I thought I was going to stay here forever, just cut back, but I tried to slow down and people kept coming. I realized I had to sell and walk away if I really wanted to slow down.
One name came to mind for this opportunity.
De Weerd has 10 years of car body experience, including three years working for Van Gorp while attending Dordt College, 2013-15.
“It was a god thing when Joel worked for us,” Janene said. “He was a young kid and he was walking around and saying that one day he would own this place… God is orchestrating the past to plan the future. We hired Joel 10 years ago, it was God orchestrating the past to bring us to where we are today.
De Weerd’s original purpose in going to Dordt was to design cars. While talking with a high school guidance counselor, they recommended trying body work.
De Weerd started out in a body shop, then moved to Countryside Body while dating Dordt.
“After the first semester of learning lines classes, I knew that graphic design wasn’t for me. I needed something practical and realized that I couldn’t spend so much time behind a computer,” said De Weerd. “Working for body shops, I started to love fixing vehicles, designing them and putting my own spin on them, taking something that was crumpled up and refurbishing it. I fell in love with it.”
De Weerd graduated from Dordt with a two-year business degree, hoping to one day own his own body shop. She spent time managing pigs, then as a feed mill operator while fixing cars on the side before the opportunity to start her own body shop in Sutherland arose six years ago.
“I bought it by accident, but it was never where I wanted to be,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be here in Sioux County. I am the fourth out of five children. All my brothers and sisters are within eight miles of here. We are married, have children. We hated being out of the loop being so far away.
De Weerd even drove an hour every Sunday to continue to Maurice Reformed Church where he first met the Van Gorps when he was 3 years old. Later, the couple even served as godfather to their high school youth group.
De Weerd and the Van Gorps started talking about the transition about six months ago.
“It means everything to be back here,” said De Weerd. “I had dreamed about it for years.”
“We have known Joel for many years and assure everyone of his integrity, reliability and quality of work,” Van Gorp said. “
While the Van Gorps wait for their twin home to be built by June, they plan to live in their RV in Arizona for the winter and possibly the Sandy Hollow Recreation Area for a little while.
“I’m happy to have fewer responsibilities and enjoy some time off and travel,” Van Gorp said.
De Weerd and his wife, Allison, moved to the Countryside Body lot with their one-year-old son, Jetson. His father, Gary De Weerd, will join him in the workshop and his brothers will also be able to on occasion, because De Weerd needs their expertise in mechanics and welding.
JJ Customs Autobody & Sales offers body repairs as well as custom accessories from B&W trailer hitches, Rough Country suspension systems, Gatorback mud flaps, Huskly liners, Weathertech lines and AMP Research treads , Truxedo access, Lund International accessories and the Scorpio bed. liners and window films.
De Weerd is also an authorized dealer for the sale of used vehicles.