Editors Note: George Kryssing Sr., affectionately known by peers as Papa Kook, passed away last week. The founder of Statesville, North Carolina-based Kooks Custom Headers made a huge impact on the industry, as evidenced by his induction in 2012 into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, and in 2013 into the Legion of Honor. Kryssing also contributed to THE SHOP’s sister publication, the now shuttered Performance & Hotrod Business (PHB). Kryssing last spoke with PHB in an interview with freelancer Regis Finn this spring for the magazine’s June 2015 issue. As a tribute to Papa Kook, we now present that inteview as originally printed:
Scroll below to view the Papa Kook image gallery.
TALKIN’ PERFORMANCE WITH PAPA KOOK
Today we introduce you to George Kryssing, much better known in our industry as Papa Kook, the founder of Kooks Custom Headers in Statesville, North Carolina.
If you’re into any type of racing, chances are you’re familiar with the brand and its high-quality exhaust products. Well respected throughout the industry, Kooks builds products for all types of competition, including: drag racing, road racing, circle track, offshore boats and motorcycles.
The company can be found in NHRA, IHRA, NMCA, NMRA, NASCAR, SCCA, NASA and many other sanctioned forms of racing.
For more than 50 years, winners and champions have chosen Kooks products. So let’s meet the man who started it all—in a garage, of course!
PHB: Hi Papa. Thanks for joining us. So, what got you interested in the automotive aftermarket?
PK: I’ve always loved cars from an early age. I was especially interested in drag racing. It was my hobby.
PHB: How did you end up in the position you have today?
PK: When people saw the headers I built for myself, they asked where I bought them. I told them I made them and they asked if I would make a set for them, too.
I started building headers in the garage at home. It eventually got to the point that I was afforded the chance to leave my regular day job and concentrate on Kooks Headers. It was at this time that I decided to move to a larger shop—one away from the modest garage I had started with.
PHB: What’s a typical day like for you?
PK: I’m semi-retired. I usually work four half-days. I start my day off by meeting with my son, Kook Jr., who is also the Kooks CEO. This is followed by a conversation with my grandson, Chris, who heads up our sales and marketing efforts.
I then check in with our engineering department and get an update on tooling and see how our engineering projects are coming along. Then it’s on to visit Frank, our shop service manager, and discuss any needs he may have.
PHB: What’s the best thing about your job?
PK: I enjoy watching my son and grandson, who are bringing the company’s growth to the next level.
PHB: What’s the biggest challenge?
PK: Our biggest challenge is trying to stay ahead of the market with emerging trends and products.
PHB: How do you see the current state of the performance aftermarket?
PK: I foresee that if honesty and quality do not remain and continue in this industry, products will be gone in five years or less.
PHB: Where do you think the industry will be in 10 years?
PK: Boy, that’s a tough question! I think there will be more hybrid, diesel and turbocharged cars and trucks. We will have to prepare for big changes in the future.
PHB: Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
PK: Being inducted in the 2012 class of the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame. I was also inducted into the Legion of Honor in 2013.
PHB: What’s your next big goal to achieve?
PK: To be inducted into the NHRA and SEMA Halls of Fame.
PHB: What’s your advice for speed shops seeking long-term success in the performance aftermarket?
PK: Keep up with the newest technology. Be honest with your customers and treat them fairly. Never give up and your business will grow by word of mouth.
PHB: What was your first car?
PK: It was a 1950 Ford Crestline.
PHB: What’s your dream ride?
PK: It would have to be a 2015 Bugatti.
PHB: What’s on your computer/phone wallpaper?
PK: A picture of my wife and me at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
PHB: The person you’d most like to meet?
PK: Donald Trump
PHB: Papa, please complete this sentence: “If I wasn’t in the performance aftermarket, I’d probably be …”
PK: I would have probably been a lawyer.
PHB: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Your career has helped shape our aftermarket industry for the better.