Apex Customs: Automotive Customization Shop in Phoenix, AZ
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Former Bartender Bootstraps a Thriving Automotive Customization Shop in Phoenix

While Tyler Copenhaver didn’t set out to build one of the most respected automotive customization shops on the West Coast, his interactions with restoration shops and hard-to-find-parts dealers quickly revealed an opportunity in the market.

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Tyler Copenhaver, founder of Apex Customs

 

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As a classic car enthusiast, Tyler Copenhaver spent his spare time between bartending and school purchasing rundown classic cars and restoring them to make a little extra cash to pay his way through a degree in biochemistry at Arizona State University.

When the neighbors started complaining about the eyesores in the driveway, he scoured the classifieds for a space to work on his side projects, away from the judgmental eyes of the neighborhood.

While Copenhaver didn’t set out to build one of the most respected automotive customization shops on the West Coast, his interactions with restoration shops and hard-to-find-parts dealers quickly revealed an opportunity in the market.

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With a lack of continuity between service offerings at shops around the city and customer service a low priority for the shops he could find, Copenhaver sought to open a shop that would offer all the customization services you need under one roof. No more towing your vehicle all over the city to the tire shop, the body shop and engine builder just to complete a project. His No. 1 priority was to make customer service and ethical practices the foundation of every project he took on.

Founded in 2014 on a shoestring budget, a commitment to honesty and a drive to do whatever it took to make customers happy with their service, Copenhaver created Apex Customs, a full-service automotive shop dedicated to providing automotive enthusiasts with all of their customization needs under one roof.

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What Copenhaver lacked in capital to start the capital-intensive business, he made up for in tenacity, thriftiness, 100-hour workweeks, negotiation skills, living on rice and beans, and an ability to go above and beyond for his customers.

Apex Customs is a bootstrapped business, founded with Copenhaver’s tips from the bar, a handful of credit cards and consistently rolling the revenues of the business back into growing the service offerings. To date, Apex has never brought in a large investor or taken a bank loan to build the impressive operation he operates today.

While growing the business, Copenhaver conducted expensive research on every service and vendor by studying every detail down to the chemistry of the product and tested every product and supplier on his own project cars before offering the service to customers.

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By day, Copenhaver worked on customer cars in between classes at ASU, and worked late into the night tending bar and sneaking in homework to generate the cash to keep the business growing. The business started with vinyl-wrapping cars in a shabby metal shack and has grown to a four-building shop with multiple bays, lifts and an impressive team of technicians offering every customization service an enthusiast would need to build his dream ride.

“Tyler’s ability to sell services, keep customers happy, coordinate multiple projects, manage staff and come up with money out of thin air to keep the lights on in a pinch is nothing short of a miracle,” said Elliot Hutchens, vice president of Apex Customs. “He’s the most tenacious entrepreneur I have ever met.”

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Copenhaver brought in his childhood friend Hutchens early in the operations to help with the technical, business and accounting sides. With his background in business operations, information technology and accounting, Hutchens has been instrumental in assisting Copenhaver to navigate the nuances of operating the business side of Apex Customs.

Copenhaver and Hutchens grew up together and formed a bond through their shared propensity for dreaming big and working hard to make those dreams come true. Both came from meager means and started working full-time jobs at age 14 to support themselves.

“Our vision is to build the largest and most successful shop in the country,” Copenhaver said. “We want to remake an industry that tends to put customers last by becoming advisers to their customization projects, helping them throughout the entire process without selling them on unnecessary services just to boost our profit. What gets us up in the morning is helping our customers turn their visions and dreams into reality.

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“What keeps us going through the challenges is the belief that the success of Apex will provide us the means to give back to the community and help other children that grew up in challenging environments. We want to help children who are less fortunate achieve their own dreams.”

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