SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Unhappy customers turned to KOLR 10 Investigates to warn others about Queen City Rod & Custom, a hot rod repair shop facing mounting complaints, allegations, and lawsuits in the year and a half it’s been in business.
Since Queen City opened in early 2022, at least half a dozen people have sued the shop or its owner Hillary Deckard. Customers claim Reed Arnold, who runs the shop with Deckard, promises work will be done within weeks, but it often takes much longer.
Agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Labor, Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, and the Better Business Bureau have all fielded complaints about the body shop.
Records from the Springfield Police Department confirm at least three drivers reported their vehicles stolen just so that law enforcement would intervene and they could get their cars back.
“How would I sum it up? Worst experience I’ve ever had,” said Ricky Smiley Jr., whose 1993 Mustang sat on Queen City’s lot for nearly a year.
He dropped it off in February 2022 and paid a $1,000 deposit. Smiley showed us messages of correspondence between himself and Arnold. The messages show that Arnold said it would take three weeks to paint his car red. Over the next year, on at least six occasions, Smiley asked to see his car and each time Arnold told him it was almost ready.
The messages go on to show Smiley picked his Mustang up 11 months later. Although it had been painted red, Smiley wasn’t happy. He showed us where paint job wasn’t right and where water had stained the floor boards. He also noticed his rear seats, weather stripping, a brake light, and a decal were all missing.
“I was like a kid in Candy Land…and then he just ripped it apart, tore my heart out,” said Smiley.
He told KOLR 10 Investigates that Arnold eventually blocked him.
Smiley is not the only person warning others to be careful doing business with Queen City Rod & Custom. Customers, rental companies and a former employee have also sued the company.
Arnold, who’s on probation after pleading guilty to forgery in 2020 referred our questions to his attorney, who did not provide us with a statement.
“I was promised a lot and delivered a whole lot of nothing,” said Brad Bashor, a former Queen City Rod & Custom employee.
Bashor left his job of 11 years to work for Arnold as the shop’s manager. His short tenure overlapped with Smiley’s time as a customer.
“It was my dream job to work in a hot rod shop,” Bashor said. “I build cars in the evenings with my friends. I’ve been building and restoring cars for a long time.”
Bashor said Smiley was one of many unhappy customers he did business with.
“My first day I had to deal with a customer who wanted to pick their car up and the work was not completed and they were not satisfied,” he said.
Bashor says a back injury put him out of work. He then sued the company for $3,800 in unpaid wages. A judge awarded him $2,675. Other documents show owner Hillary Deckard’s wages were garnished from her other job at Bank of America.
“Run away, run away!” Bashor warned to anyone thinking about working for or with the company.
Court records show customers and vendors also won small claims suits totaling about $5,000.
Jody Smith is a car enthusiast who’s well-known in the community for organizing car shows and other events. Smith said in summer 2022, Arnold agreed to help her make trophies for a car show. That partnership didn’t last long and Smith said she went to Queen City Rod & Custom to retrieve her things.
“The day that I went to get the parts, he wasn’t there and there were three other vendors looking for him,” said Smith.
Two rental companies also sued for nearly $15,000 combined in unpaid rent. The rent cases were settled out of court.
Customers question how the company remains open for business.
“I don’t want nobody else going through the same thing I went through,” said Smiley. “It sucks.”
The authority to shut down a Missouri business falls to the attorney general. Andrew Bailey’s office confirms it is actively investigating consumer allegations.
Finding reputable shops
Word of mouth can be a powerful tool in sleuthing businesses with bad reputations. At one point, a Facebook group with more than 300 members shared complaints about work done at Queen City Rod & Custom.
Some of Queen City Rod & Custom’s clients told KOLR 10 Investigates they should have done more research before taking their cars there. Others say they were fooled by photos. The Better Business Bureau offered some advice to consumers who may not want to rely solely on pictures.
“When you go in to do business with a company that you’ve never worked with, ask for references and see if you can speak to those consumers directly,” said Pamela Hernandez, regional director for the BBB.
Hernandez adds that it can be useful to ask for new and old references in case a business has changed ownership.
Charity car show put in question
Several people KOLR 10 Investigates interviewed mentioned issues involving a charity car show Queen City Rod & Custom hosted in summer 2022. Records from the Springfield Police Department show Arnold told SPD last July that the shop was hosting a car show to benefit law enforcement and the family of murder victim Colin Loderhose.
KOLR 10 Investigates spoke to Colin’s brother directly. The Loderhose family said they never knew about the benefit show and never got money from a Queen City fundraiser.
If you have a story you’d like Investigative Reporter Lauren Barnas to look into, send her an email at email@example.com.