Hubcaps Unlimited keeps on rolling
Dyneks grow firm through large contracts, Web, customer service
The Business Journal of Milwaukee - by Kathy Bergstrom Special to The Business Journal
Rick Dynek Sr. (right, with son Rick Dynek Jr.) . . . “If you sell junk, it comes back to haunt you.”View Larger
Twenty-five years ago, Rick Dynek found his product at junk yards and his customers at flea markets and car shows.
Dynek is still buying other people's cast-off hubcaps, but they come in large lots from across the country. And more of his customers are finding him online.
Dynek, 53, started Hubcaps Unlimited in 1982, selling used hubcaps after he got laid off from Indiana-based Bostrom Seating Corp.
He worked out of his garage for the first several years and opened the retail store at 4262 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, in 1987.
Dynek's customer base has expanded to car lots, body shops and insurance companies in addition to individual customers.
Hubcaps Unlimited sells and installs new and used hubcaps, wheels and wheel covers. Dynek started selling wheels, which are like hubcaps but permanently mounted on the tire, about six years ago. Wheels now surpass hubcaps in sales.
The family business sells to customers in all 50 states and has dealt with large clients like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the U.S. government. Individuals represent about 60 percent of business.
Rick handles the buying and sales, and his wife, Cynthia, is the bookkeeper.
Their son, Rick Jr., 30, joined the business in 1994. He was interested in technology and convinced his father to start the Web site (www.hubcapnation.com) in 1998.
"The way I looked and shopped was on the Internet," Rick Dynek Jr. said. "Everybody shops the Internet."
The first Web site was just one page, and Hubcaps Unlimited still would not accept credit cards. Rick Sr. was leery of taking on the expense of accepting plastic, so online customers had to send money orders.
Finally, after about a year, Rick Dynek Sr. acquiesced and started taking credit cards. Today the Web site is about 400 pages and generates more than half of the company's $400,000 in annual sales.
The Web site takes guesswork out of ordering, because the products are pictured on the site. Before Hubcaps Unlimited went online, customers called looking for a hubcap not realizing that each car had several options from style to number of bolts.
It was easy to get it wrong, but those mistakes are avoided with the online pictures.
Rick Dynek Jr. agreed that the number of Web sites has grown, but said that many are multipurpose sites whose operators know little about hubcaps.
"We're just a niche business. If you have questions on what we do, we'll be able to answer it every time," he said.
High-tech vs. low-tech
While selling hubcaps has gone high-tech, the method of locating product remains pretty low-tech and still depends on Rick Dynek Sr.'s intuition and knowledge of trends.
He travels around the country in a 16-foot box truck, visiting auto shows and hubcap and wheel stores. He logged 25,000 miles last year.
The stores stockpile hubcaps and wheels that they've replaced for their customers and sell them to Dynek. He has regular vendors, but also flips open the phone book and looks for additional sources.
"It's always a surprise package," he said.
Hubcaps cost an average of $20 to $40, and wheels start at $40 and go up to $100 to $200 each.
Hubcaps Unlimited has about 25,000 hubcaps and wheels in stock. They're shelved alphabetically by car make behind a large counter in the 1,300-square-foot store on Howell Avenue. Dynek also has another off-site storage facility.
It's partly guesswork to determine what kind of hubcaps and wheels the business will need. The Dyneks look at what cars are selling and what styles people are buying, whether it's chrome or steel.
They even consider what hubcaps bolt on and which don't.
"I don't think there's any rhyme or reason," Rick Dynek Sr. said.
He often buys the hubcaps and wheels in large lots, which can include items that he knows might not sell.
"Some of the hubcaps have had 15 birthdays already," he said.
Having the Web site means less walk-in traffic for the retail store, but the Dyneks say they have no plans to close it. They think diversity of business is one key to their success.
The Dyneks' competition is national, but they say there's room for everyone.
Relies on good service
Their simple philosophy for capturing their share of business is good service, which means taking care of customers as quickly as possible, being courteous and providing a good product.
"If you sell junk, it comes back to haunt you," Rick Dynek Sr. said. "All of our business in 25 years is all word of mouth."
Dynek has run the business conservatively, never taking out a loan.
After 25 years in the business, he plans to retire sometime in the next year and hand the business over to his son. They have not decided how the deal will be structured.
David Starich, detail manager for S&S Auto Repair & Detailing in Franklin, said Hubcaps Unlimited is always willing to hunt down something for the business if it doesn't have the product.
S&S prepares cars for display on car lots and auctions, and calls on Hubcaps Unlimited to replace missing or damaged hubcaps and wheels.
"They've always been top notch in my book" Starich said.
Prices are fair, and the Dyneks are friendly and treat customers well, he said.
"They've always been able to meet our needs 100 percent," he said. "They have a huge line. They have tons of different styles."
Owner: Rick Dynek Sr.Year founded: 1982Location: 4262 S. Howell Ave., MilwaukeeWeb site: www.hubcapnation.comAnnual revenue: About $400,000Business plan: Sell and install new and used hubcaps, wheel and wheel coverings to individuals, automobile lots, insurance companies and other clients. Products are sold in the company's retail store, online and through regional business accounts.Plan for growth: Increase sales though the Internet and expand to national accounts
What is the biggest risk you've taken so far? "Opening a retail store with a niche item and establishing a strong customer base."What is your greatest business challenge? "Balancing inventory to the constant market trends. It's constantly changing."What is your goal yet to be achieved? "To expand our local customer base to a national level, by the Internet."What is the most important lesson you've learned? "Quality products and customer service will build word-of-mouth advertising and will ensure the growth of your future business. We take each customer individually, so I always look at it as my one customer is my only customer. Whether he's buying a $2 item or a $100 item, I treat him with respect."What was your smartest move? "The decision to develop the Web site."
Answers by Rick Dynek Sr.
Kathy Bergstrom is a Milwaukee-area freelance writer.