Belgium garage stakes its claim on truck accessories

Spindle shop owner, mechanic open Gearhead Truck Outfitters in vacant warehouse space to capitalize on niche market

AFTER OPENING IN JULY, Gearhead Truck Outfitters in Belgium has been seeing steady business accessorizing vehicles and is looking to expand. Standing in front of a suspended Jeep on a lift station were (from left) operations manager Buck Lazore, apprentice Markus Ramirez and owner Randy Rosbeck. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

When Randy Rosbeck needed work done on his truck and a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle, he called his pal Buck Lazore to make the old jalopies look brand new.
    The two men opened up Gearhead Truck Outfitters in Belgium last month.
    “Buck was working out of a shop at his house,” Rosbeck, owner of RMR Spindle Repair, said. “Everything he worked on looked like it just came off the assembly line, and I said, ‘I have all this extra space open. Let’s upgrade the space and buy some new equipment so we can start our own shop.’”
    About three months ago, Lazore began renovating 6,000 square feet of storage space next to the spindle repair shop, and Rosbeck spent approximately $100,000 on new equipment, including a tire changer and balancer, lift kit station and Rhino Linings paint station.
    “This was a skeleton of a warehouse and it was falling apart,” Rosbeck said of his new shop at 660 Park St. in Belgium, which was previously home to Wester Electric. “Eventually, I want to make a second shop in the back.”
    Rosbeck owns the company and Lazore runs most its operations along with mechanic Chad Biersach.
    Some of the services Gearhead Truck Outfitters provide include installing spring and bed liners, trailer hitches and lighting packages.
    “There’s no job we won’t turn down. We do any type of truck accessory that doesn’t come from the original equipment manufacturer,” Rosbeck said, adding the company also does some motorcycle detailing.
    Rosbeck said accessorizing trucks, Jeeps and sports utility vehicles is a niche market. The closest shop that provides similar services is in West Bend.
    “I hear a lot of people saying, ‘Thank you. Now we don’t have to travel all the way to West Bend.’ Everybody knows there’s no straight shot to West Bend from Belgium,” he said, noting most of his customers come from about a 30-mile radius around Belgium.
    The company has been seeing steady business since opening and usually works on one or two vehicles per day, but Rosbeck hopes as word spreads that there will be more opportunities.
    While Rosbeck’s spindle shop is a separate business, the two occasionally cross paths.
    “Sometimes when you’re working a vehicle, you need a special part made,” Rosbeck said. “Well, we’ve got a machine shop in our back pocket, which makes life easy for us.
    “Last week, we had a guy who needed two parts to do a modification to his ’68 car. They were generic parts that needed some modifications to make it fit. In less than two hours, we had it up and running.”
    Rosbeck said he is wary when he hears about people accessorizing their vehicles.   
     “It takes a lot of special tools to work on a vehicle,” he said. “There are a lot of people who try to do stuff on their own truck. They get halfway through and realize they don’t have the right tools.”
    Rosbeck found his vocation when he was 10 years old and helped out at a machine shop in Milwaukee on Saturdays. While standing on a wooden box, he would feed parts into a turret lathe.
    “That was exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “This is a hobby for me. I love being a machine repairman.”
    Rosbeck credits his experience as a retired U.S. Navy chief and machine repairman for helping him run his businesses.
    “A machine repairman in the Navy has to be able to make any part,” he said. “When you’re in the middle of the ocean, you ain’t going to tell the captain that you can’t make that, otherwise you’ll be in the scullery washing dishes.”
    He also credits his high school technical classes at West Bend West with teaching him the importance of the skilled trades.
    His 15-year-old grandson Markus Ramirez, who attends Cedar Grove-Belgium High School, is currently a summer apprentice at the shop.
    “That’s exactly how I started out,” Rosbeck said. “I can thank my high school because they had those vocational classes, which led me to where I am today.”
    Rosbeck wants to work with local high schools to get more students involved in the skilled trades. He said it is tough finding employees because schools aren’t offering as many technical courses.
    “The industry is lacking for people with knowledge about the skilled trades,” he said.
    Rosbeck said he is lucky his daughters Tammy and Sandy Rosbeck are handy with machines because they help run his spindle repair business, along with his sister Carol Holeva, who is the office manager.
    “It’s awesome and very gratifying to work with my family,” he said. “It’s like a part of you is working all over the place.”
    Rosebeck, who is in his 50s, said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, but he hopes to pass off his businesses to his daughters and grandson.
    In the meantime, he wants to expand his operations and hire more workers.
    “We’re looking to expand and provide a service out there that isn’t readily available,” he said.

 

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