Wholesale Customs in the Boro might sound like the kind of place where young dudes take their rides to be jacked up with custom suspension and tricked out with tony rims and window-thumping aftermarket sound systems. Well, it is, but it's also a place where their moms can buy new tires and get them mounted on the family minivan while it's realigned using a state-of-the-art machine.
As would be expected, that action takes place in the two-bay shop where two brand-new lifts have recently been installed. But the lobby showroom displays home video and audio equipment, as well as car stereos and speakers and a few of the flashier tires and wheels. Wholesale Customs also sells Spyclops home security equipment, including camera systems as well as alarms.
Owners James Hayes and Jeremy Powell opened the place Aug. 17 on U.S. Highway 301 South, next to the Sunoco station near Register. The same building was previously inhabited by another business that handled automotive sound systems, but not the many other things that Wholesale Customs does.
"Basically anything automotive we take care of, from cars and trucks to ATVs, UTVs, tractors," Powell said. We'll do suspension work, repair work, pretty much any accessory that you could think of."
On off-road as well as on-road vehicles, Wholesale Customs sells and installs tires, wheels, lift kits, and other accessories. Its shop services things such as ball joints and tie rod ends, "anything that would be a normal-wear item," he added.
But tires, including big-truck tires and car tires and tires for utility vehicles, or "UTV's," are the company's mainstay. Wholesale Customs primarily stocks Cooper tires and Cooper subsidiary brands Mastercraft and Hercules but also sells and installs brands such as Mickey Thompson, Bridgestone and Michelin.
"That's what we do the most of in our other location is tires, and then everything else, you know, is kind of an added bonus, your accessories, car audio, window tint," Powell said.
Wholesale Customs also does spray-in bedliners, here as at its original location.
Powell remains sole owner of the original Wholesale Customs shop at Higgston, a crossroads town west of Vidalia. He established the business in 1998, adapting the name from Wholesale Supply, a company his father owned and operated for decades in Vidalia, where Jeremy grew up mixing and selling paint.
"I basically dropped the paint and added cars. ..., " Powell said. "I had mixed paint long enough, and my passion was in cars and accessorizing vehicles. I started out window tinting and kind of went from there."
Hayes bought in as an equal partner in the new Statesboro location, and is its full-time manager. The company has four employees working here full-time, and as many as six when others come over from Higgston as needed.
This is Hayes' first venture as a business owner. He previously worked as a superintendent for Power Equipment Maintenance, an Anderson, South Carolina, company that services turbines at electricity generating plants.
"I got tired of being gone all the time," Hayes said. "My work took me to Guatemala, to Japan and all over the world, and I decided to come back and go into business with Jeremy."
The two have been friends for a long time, and Powell had been encouraging Hayes to go into business with him for several years. Powell says that Hayes can seem obsessive-compulsive about doing things right.
"He's very professional when it comes to making sure everything is done correctly," Powell said. "He's OCD if you want to call it that, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when comes to taking care of everything and making sure it's in order. That's why I knew he would be good at this."
Earlier, Powell had attempted to branch out to Dublin, but the timing wasn't right, he said, and the location there never opened.
But he and Hayes thought Statesboro would be a perfect fit.
"We thought it would be a real good location for, you know, the college kids," Powell said. "That's kind of our market, that age group, that demographic."
As automotive enthusiasts, he and Hayes have each restored a number of vintage vehicles, selling some and keeping others. Hayes' specialty is restoring Chevy pickups to showpiece status. Powell has owned a 1969 "General Lee" Dodge Charger and a Shelby Mustang GT500 just like the one in the 2000 version of "Gone in 60 Seconds," among several other custom rides.
"But we also want to be known for your average Joe or your soccer mom, if they need tires, to stop in as well," Powell said.
This is Wholesale Customs' first expansion, but won't necessarily be its last.
"We do plan to expand further," Powell said. "We want to get our Statesboro location up and running first. The sky is the limit for us."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.