WATSEKA, ILLINOIS — The east intersection of U.S. 24 and Illinois 1 will look different soon as a local business broke ground on Oct. 8 for a new project.

Nichols Paint and Fab in Watseka is expanding to the southeast section of that intersection with a 100x300 new building.

Several local and state dignitaries were in attendance at the groundbreaking Oct. 8, including State Rep. Tom Bennett, Watseka City Council Alderwoman Monna Ulfers and Alderman Benny Marcier, several Watseka Area Chamber of Commerce board members and friends and family of the Nichols crew. The address of the new location is 1800 North State Road Route 1.

Owner Justin Nichols said, “We recently bought this almost five acres right on here on the edge of town. We are starting construction, getting everything level and going to put up the 100x300 foot main shop.

“What we’re going to do with that is we are going to expand into more of what we are doing currently,” he said.

Nichols Paint and Fab offers custom automotive builds. Nichols and his crew were also featured for two seasons in a television series on MotorTrend network called “Wrench’d”. Nichols and crew have won several awards also, including Best Traditional Hot Rod and Best in Class at World of Wheels in Chicago for their 1929 Ford Sedan.

“We’re going to have a showroom, so we’re going to have all of our builds, our past builds and all our featured stuff. We’ll have a place to actually put them.

“Right now we’ve got people coming in from all over. We really don’t have a place to showcase what we do. They can come in and see the shop and every body is super excited to do that, but we’d like to give them an experience when they come.

“We’ll offer that and our merch, and then we’re going to do parts and truck accessories. We’re just going to be doing a lot more. We’re moving all the body work and paint out here. All the fabrication. All the ins and outs of people wanting to visit. I hope it ends up like a tourist stop. We’ve got people coming in from all over.”

Currently Nichols has expanded into two buildings, with the shop on South Second Street and the Paint Shop on Walnut. The new project will put all of that into one building.

He said there are people who travel to visit the shop. “Especially when the weather is nice, its daily,” he said. “We have anywhere from five to 10 people or groups at a time. People call and schedule to come in and visit. We don’t really have the staff or manpower or room to accommodate a big group. We’ve had car clubs want to come in and make it a stop on their drive.” There are a number of motorcyclists who also make a trip to see them. “So now we can accommodate whatever and whoever,” he said.

FBI Builders is working with Nichols on the project. “We have to be unique on how we set up the inside of the building and they were able to do that,” he said.

The plan is to have the new building open April 1. “We have to have the building up by mid-November, that way they can do the inside stuff and we’ll be ready to go. As soon as the weather breaks we’ll do the parking lot and the outside stuff and be ready to roll,” he said.

“Mid-October we should have the floor poured. Once that’s down and cured, the back building is 100x100 for storage and miscellaneous. It will be going up quick.”

Nichols was born and raised in Watseka and it’s been important to him to stay in Watseka.

“It’s more of a personal thing for me. I definitely want to stay here,” he said, noting that the location they have chosen is going to be a good fit for them to do that.

“We can move forward and do exactly what we need to do,” he said.

Currently employing eight full-time people, Nichols said he is looking for more once the new building is up. “You can’t do it by yourself obviously. With the team that’s here and been here for this long. We’re all excited and ready to move forward.”

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