Street Beat Customs, founded in 1990 by Rick Freeman, sells all kinds of goodies - from suspension kits to cowl hoods - to personalize a vehicle inside and out. Street Beat does not sell OEM replacement parts to just put a car back together. They sell flashy, custom-made accessories to make a vehicle stand out from all the rest.
Just a few additions - such as a super sport bumper cover, a steel cowl induction hood, projector headlights and a black chrome mesh grille - can make a stock '99 Chevy pick-up look like a new Chevy Super Sport.
Body shop owners can turn the negative experience of repairing a vehicle after an accident into a positive one for their customers by offering to personalize their cars with custom accessories rather than simply replacing stock parts. For the amount of money the insurance company pays, the customer ends up with a car he really loves and wants to show off. It's a situation where everybody wins.
Birth of a company
Freeman, a graduate of Michigan State, was on track to go into management for one of the big three automakers. However, his entrepreneurial spirit took over and led him to Phoenix, Arizona, where he tried his hand at various auto-related businesses. For a time he ran a detailing shop, then opened a pressure washing company. All the while, Freeman pursued his hobby as a car customizer. He jazzed up vehicles on the weekends, partly to support the pressure washing business. When the customizing brought in more dough than the pressure washing business, customizing took over.
As he put in a lot of hours doing customizing work, he also sold custom parts to other body shops all over the west and southwest to enhance his income. That aspect of his business grew and Street Beat Customs was born.
Street Beat is now made up of 25 teammates, as Freeman calls them. There is quite a mixture of personalities - all car nuts! And all levels of background are represented from college types who have chosen to indulge their passion for cars to young guys who came from working at the parts counter. From MBAs to high school dropouts, they are all artists when it comes to creating a custom vehicle.
Freeman is quick to point out that "this is all fun stuff. It doesn't take any more effort to paint a cowl hood than a stock hood. And it doesn't cost any more either. We love the fact that our staff members drive cool cars and park them out in front of the shop. It actually helps to draw attention to our business."
Finding Street Beat
Street Beat is customer-friendly as well. A comprehensive web site (www.streetbeatcustoms.com) shows off the discount-priced custom parts that are available to make a car truly one's own. Or you can call the toll-free number 800-819-6503 to talk to guys who have been with the company forever, have tons of product knowledge and can offer technical help right over the phone. Customers get the right part the first time around. The company stocks what it sells in its warehouse in Phoenix, where the retail store is located. Street Beat Customs is not just working out of somebody's garage, Freeman notes. "Stocking the right products and getting them promptly to the customer is the whole job."
Street Beat has a wholesale program with discount prices to go along with the expertise they offer. And wholesale prices are available for body shop techs who make up a large portion of the customer base. A further benefit is free UPS shipping on most parts.
Outside the shop
Street Beat exhibits at car shows where the enthusiasts go - World of Wheels, Good Guys shows and the Barrett-Jackson classic car auctions. As members of SEMA, they exhibit at the yearly SEMA show in Las Vegas. After 15 years in Phoenix, the company has developed a good reputation.
Freeman is married to wife Michele, who worked in the business when it first began. She is currently a full-time mother to Audrey, 8, Gracie, 5, Benjamin,1, and a yellow lab named Daisy. Even at such young ages, the girls are very much into cars and always have been. They just naturally seem to notice shiny wheels and lowered vehicles.
Street Beat has worked with the local DARE program and the Phoenix fire department, supporting them at car shows. The local school district puts on a car show in which they participate.
But Freeman feels the company's greatest accomplishment is "fostering professionalism - turning young employees into professionals and helping them improve their lives. We give them the opportunity to earn a good salary - enough to buy houses and have a comfortable standard of living. It is fun to watch them grow. We take a lot of pride in that.
"Most of us grew up with hot wheels and model cars, so it was a natural progression to start doing things to real cars. We've never stopped playing with cars."