Everything starts with a Strip-Mall. At one end is a night club that draws the usual crowd. In the center is a church that has formed a religious establishment. At the other end is Killer Customs & Performance, Inc. This is an odd sight for such a strong business that was created in 2003 by Paul Dyck and Blake Foster. It is the imaginative side along with the business side. That is the equalizer between these two men. Dyck handles his imagination that is put out on every dream-like vehicle he touches. Foster deals with the business as every owner should. He keeps Killer Customs on its feet and that is where Killer Customs wants to be.
A Brief History
Killer Customs is located within Pitt Meadows just 40 minutes east of Vancouver. Canada has been the home for the innovators of Killer Customs. Dyck and Foster have been friends since the latter days of their early childhood. They are the same age and have been friends for almost twenty years. They were actually in the same third grade class together way back in the past. They went their separate ways as soon as school turned over but never lost their mechanic sense. Dyck did a few odd jobs here and there and then out of nowhere, he started a decal shop named Racers Decals he still owns. Foster went a different path than Dyck did. He sold auto parts, industrial parts, and worked for a national fork-lift service.
Both owners have certain talents and aspects that make them into what they are. Dyck does most of the artwork and graphics. A lot of his work focuses on signs, concept drawings, and paint schemes. They are both in deep with Killer Customs. Dyck is a little more into Killer Customs because of Dyck’s other business. Foster runs the day-to-day business of Killer Customs. He also does a lot of booking, parts ordering, and face-to-face time with the customers.
When it comes down to the design of the car, they both throw in their two cents. Foster says, “We collaborate pretty heavily on the design of the car.” By collaborating on the car together shows how personal the business is to them. Dyck and Foster care about the thought of one another towards the car. Their ownership is a team-like atmosphere, with Dyck focusing on creativity and Foster focusing on a day to day ran business process.
With the company, come employees, good ones from time to time in this industry. Foster states in regards to searching for a good employee, “I think it is the hardest thing of this whole business.”
Currently they have ten working employees including the two owners. Foster admits that they have gone through a lot of employees to get where they are now. When they first started, they hired a younger group that knew the hip style of the present day. However these employees didn’t really work out because they couldn’t show up to work on time. They have since driven a different path and hired experience over youth. Foster admits that experience costs more, but it is worth every penny. Foster says that the “confidence” of an experienced mechanic is the best thing in the world to have in their shop. The owners do have more confidence in their already experienced employees. More experience means more productivity for an already busy shop.
Killer Customs location is odd yet fascinating to the mechanic world in general. Killer Customs is located within a Strip-Mall. The strip mall is shared with a night club and a church. Foster loves this location because it is right off one of the main highways in their area. Foster says, “With a stroke of good luck” is how they came upon this location. The location came down to an old cabinet manufacturer who owned two spaces within the strip-mall property, a smaller space and a larger space (which eventually became their shop). After looking at the smaller property, Foster and Dyck talked to the cabinet manufacturer who offered the bigger property to them and in 2003 Killer Customs was born into the car performance business. Dyck and Foster created the shop on their own and they never took any loans or borrowed money to make Killer Customs into what it is.
Killer Customs’ shop is 10,000 square feet. Three to four vehicles fit in the 2,500-foot show room. Six to 10 vehicles can fit in the general shop area with an additional four to five vehicles in the body shop. The body shop area is the bulk of the shop itself.
The body and paint shop are practically brand new. This new addition, which opened in January, has made a huge impact on the shop as a whole. Foster states, “We basically keep more control of the projects.” Foster said that they wanted to do everything themselves. They got sick of waiting for the cars to be finished, and they could pick up where the specifics ended. Killer Customs has grown to the point of doing almost everything from the start to finish of a project themselves.
What They Do?
What does Killer Customs do? Well let’s start with everything they do not do. The two things that they do not do are upholstery and the manufacturing of the motor. Killer Customs does everything else and then some. Their business starts with a referral from one of their other customers. It starts as Dyck sits and listens to the customer who has an idea to have something built from their dreams. Dyck creates everything from scratch starting with a concept drawing that shows what the customer wants even as they are describing it. He creates everything that comes to make a smoking rod. They do everything from the design of the car itself to creating the chassis and everything in between to the point of assembling the car and waiting for the motor so they can install it as soon as possible.
There are three engine builders that Killer Customs uses. There are three because Dyck and Foster both agreed not to build motors within their shop. They are professionals in all senses, but Foster admits that engine building is “risky”. He claims, “There are some things that you are better off being professional at.” The only thing they do not have to worry about in their shop is the motor.
Advantages and Disadvantages
This business is located on the western grounds of Canada. The closest U.S city is Seattle, Washington, which is a three-to-four hour drive. Next to Vancouver, the nearest metropolitan city is Calgary and that is a 10 hour hike inland. There is an advantage and a disadvantage to doing work within the province of Canada. There are two sides to the coin says Foster. He comments, “I don’t think there is really anybody else in our area that really does as much as we do in the custom car.” That is great for them in a sense that everybody in the Vancouver area wants to build a car for themselves can go to Killer Customs. To Foster, the downside to the shop’s location is that Vancouver is the only city that gives them true business. Foster says, “We can draw from that million and a half people, but that’s it.” The million and a half is the current population of Vancouver and their draw is only from that area itself. They still have not done any work in the United States. Foster says that anybody in the states doesn’t really know them yet. Foster states, “We basically have been surviving and thriving in the local scene.” This business that is built within the local scene is all derived upon their reputation.
Killer Customs’ Market
Killer Customs reputation around the area is great considering where they are at. Most of their clientele is referred to them by someone else. Their reputation also weighs in on their market and how to get people into the shop. They do have a good variety of marketing strategies that they use to promote their business and the main marketing strategy is the use of local car shows. They go big by bringing or building the best hot rod they can, no matter what it is. Foster says that they want to be seen. Foster says, “When we go to the car shows we have the biggest booth.” These are the same car shows that are located within Vancouver. It is all about staying in the public. It is also about going wherever they need to be to get their work out there. When they are in the states, the SEMA Show is in the picture along with the Good Guys Show in Puyallup, Washington. It also comes down to the little things with this company that makes them market friendly. The showroom is great because it is large, and it does promote their most prized possessions, their most famous rods. They promote a lot with their Internet site. They also rock the market with apparel. Foster claims that they have sold over 10,000 shirts. Dyck had shirts created before the shop even opened up.
With the success of a good business comes fame and popularity. SEMA was pumping in full volume in 2004 when Dyck and Foster ran into Rich Christiansen. He is the creator of the hot reality television show Pinks on the Speed Channel. They talked a bunch and Christiansen actually offered them to come down to Orlando, FL for the first taping of the show. Dyck and Foster declined because how busy Killer Customs was becoming.
Christiansen told them as soon as he is in the Canada area; he is giving them a call. He called in July of 2006 and mentioned that he is having a show in Seattle. He wanted Dyck and Foster to build them a rod within a six-week time frame. They completed the rod in four and a half weeks. It turned out to be a nasty hot rod with many contributing employee hours to make it that way. They dropped the curtain in Seattle for the show, and Christiansen dropped his jaw in disbelief. He asked them, “What are you guys doing bringing such a nice car to the race?” Foster simply answered, “That is just the way we do it. We don’t know how to do it any other way.”
All this really comes to is the dedication; the dedication to market their own product. All “Pink’s” did was raise the level of their marketing strategy so more people around the U.S. could see what Killer Customs was all about. Dyck calls this “guerilla marketing”. This phrase basically means performing marketing activities on a relatively low budget. It is just another great marketing tool to promote a fast running business.
When they first began and opened their business to the public, Dyck and Foster tried to do everything. Foster states, “Anything that walked through the door we tried to do.” Dyck and Foster both wanted to go the extra mile for anything they could with a growing business. They have tried to diversify themselves with the customers that walk through the doors. Killer Customs seems to diverge on the hot rod mania that drives people into shops everywhere. It is the class of the hot rod and muscle car that shows diversity. Now they seem to be doing nothing but hot rods and muscle cars. They do them because hot rods and muscle cars are by far the most challenging and fun to do. Foster does claim that they have six full builds on the rack at the present time. All the racks are filled with hot rods. On occasion, they do 4×4 lifts, wheels and tires for different vehicles. The ability comes from what they actually do, building hot rods and muscle cars. The more diverse situations come in when Dyck himself creates a concept drawing for the customer who wants something different every time.
Along with everything else is a prize at the other end of the tunnel. The prize given to the customer after it’s all finished and ready to hit the road with nothing in its way. It is an aspect that Foster loves the most in the business. He says, “For me, it is seeing the finished product.” Dyck and Foster both know what the car will look like before they start the project. When the finished product comes into full frame and in their face, there is nothing like it to them. To literally see the customers face as soon as the car appears in front of them is a picture perfect for the ages. Another great thing is to meet other people in the industry who do these same projects and compete for something they all love. Foster says, “They are all just regular guys. They are just car guys.”
In the End
Killer Customs has been purely dedicated to building fine performance vehicles. Everything they have done with the location within a strip-mall is considerably unique and new to the industry. The fact that Dyck and Foster have not borrowed a single cent from other establishments is amazing. All of the other steps they have taken have been in the right direction. One example would be how they market their business; local car shows, Internet sites and apparel. Killer Customs was accomplished as soon as they open the doors to the shop. They have good employees sent to them with experience and nothing less. All this and a guest appearance on a popular reality drag racing show. It is fun for them to work in this business and it is fun to work as a team. They are a great team behind the scenes with Dyck and Foster at the helm. Imagination and business co-exist in a strong working environment at the top among others in their region. This is the life of the industry they have built in Canada; this is the life Killer Customs & Performance Inc.