Before chucking that old rocking horse or rusty, beat-up relic-of-a-bicycle into the trash, you might want to have Hoosier boy Restorations perform a little magic on them.
Hoosierboy can restore everything from pedal cars to antique lamps.
Although the company is less than 2 years old, owner Tim Showalter has been repairing whatever he can get his hands on since he was about 10, when he and a buddy plucked two bikes out of a neighbor’s trash. Showalter and his friend used the salvageable parts from both bikes to make a good one, which they later sold after riding it for a while. The remaining parts were saved for future repair jobs.
He’s been doing restorations ever since. “I fixed bikes and sold them for a little money out of my front yard until I graduated from college,” he said.
Since he showed such promising aptitude with his hands for a 10-year-old, his father, Dr. Bradley Showalter, former superintendent of Beech Grove Schools, took him to the shop at the district’s middle school almost every weekend so he could learn how to use tools in a safe manner. Dr. Showalter now resides in Sun City Center, Fla.
After graduating from Ball State with a background in telecommunications, he served as a technology coordinator with Beech Grove Schools for about 20 years.
When it came time for a career change and to broaden his horizons, Showalter fell back on his childhood passion.
He cashed in his 401K and launched his company in his mom’s garage. When she died he moved to another location, which quickly became too small. He now works out of a 2,200-square-foot shop at 5858 Churchman Ave.
“Business was a little slow at first, but it’s starting to take off,” said Showalter, 53. “I’m building
up a good clientele, and I’m averaging two or three calls a day. I anticipated a reasonably good business, and that’s what I’m enjoying. It’s about a 50-hour week, but that’s not terrible. I’m working on 12 items right now. About 20 percent of my business is local, the rest is from around the country and the world. I repaired a Mobo horse (a rocking equine that can move on its hidden wheels) for a guy from England. I know he paid a pretty penny to have it shipped here and back. That kind of business shows the marketing power of the Internet.”
He has hired one full-time worker, Wayne Welsh. “I couldn’t do it without him. He is a very detailed-oriented guy. Tom Hart works part time.
“And my youngest son, Mitchell, who’s a senior at Beech Grove, helps after school. He does a lot of the grunt work, but he’s a big help. He’s picking up the technical aspect of the business through osmosis. He plans to study computer science at Purdue.”
Showalter has two other sons, Bradley, 25, who is in the publishing business in New York City, and Stuart, 23, who is married and lives in Houston.
Showalter’s work begins with stripping the old paint from items by chemical or sandblasting means. Once the repairs are made, wet or a powder paint is applied, the latter of which is baked on in an oven.
“I really enjoy interacting with customers when I deliver their finished products. I love to see their reactions,” Showalter said. Unfortunately – because 30 percent of his time is spent marketing his business and researching repair methods (he learns something new every day) – he is not always available to deliver his work and must follow up with a phone call or an email. That’s when he gets to experience his customers’ happiness. “I love it when a customer says, ‘I never dreamed it would look this good.’ ”
The turnaround time is between six and 12 weeks. Since most of the items have been sitting in a garage or up in an attic for years, clients are in no rush to get them back. We are usually not under the gun to finish something ... except at Christmastime and for special occasions.
Although Showalter said he takes pleasure working on everything, pedal cars and wagons are at the top of his list. “I enjoy a good challenge. I’m sure there are some items that are unrepairable, but I have not run across any yet.”
And when Showalter isn’t busy with a customer’s project, he tinkers with collectibles for his home, which features several Hubley toy airplanes, a couple of pedal cars and a barber’s pole, just to name a few.
His fees start at several hundred dollars and have been as much as $2,500 for some lights that adorn the exterior of Indy K-9 Kollege and Grooming at 575 Main St. in Beech Grove. “Customers realize the amount of time that is involved in restoring these things. The customers who shop around for another price wind up coming back.”
Showalter said he believes that most of his customers are not concerned about the monetary value of the scooters, baby walkers, bicycles, etc., they are having restored ... rather it’s the cherished memories that are associated with the items.
Many before-and-after pictures are posted on his website, www.hoosierboyrestorations.
“We haven’t done any large items yet, but we hope that changes,” he said. “We now have the space to do them. I will do whatever its takes to make my customers happy, even if that means redoing a job.”
For clients pining relics such as gas pumps, Coca-Cola signs, gum ball machines, stamp machines and Buddy L trucks, Showalter has them in stock or can get them.
Showalter said he’s glad his business is in Beech Grove. “I grew up here, and I can remember how vibrant the city was. I love this town, and I want to be a part of its revitalization.”