When Greg Stelse visited the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan with his wife and business partner, Leah, he left knowing what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. An experienced truck driver and successful business owner, he had to break the news to Leah that he wanted to sell their multi-million dollar company and open up shop to focus on the “average guy.”
Although they did not sell their trucking company until Dec. 31, 2018, Greg’s Speed Shop officially opened in Waupaca, Wisconsin, on March 5, 2018. Not your standard restoration shop, Greg’s Speed Shop features a vintage clothing store, old-time soda bar, 1940s Texaco gas station replica, indoor movie theater, pin-up model photography studio and parts store, in addition to a large mechanical and restoration shop. In less than two years, the 20,000-square-foot phenomenon has already seen 30,000 people through the shop.
“There is something really special about this facility,” Greg said. “We’re not just a shop, we give you an experience of what the car world is all about.”
The shop initially attracted interest due to its unique storefront with beautiful brick walls, vintage signage and a 1957 Chevy positioned in front of the entrance. The interior of the facility is even more captivating — complete with building structures that were custom built by Greg, antique signage and decor, and refurbished classic cars. The appeal quickly spread across state borders, and local and national print and online magazines were happy to spread their mission, driving interest nationwide and worldwide, as far away as New Zealand.
“The reason we have grown the way we have is because we believe in what we do,” said Leah. “It’s a place for people to come hang out and socialize about cars. It’s all about making memories.”
Greg’s Speed Shop focuses on cars built in 1985 and older, so memories are definitely on the top of their list. Since the early ’90s, when Greg was a full-time painter, he has been painting and restoring vehicles. Working on vehicles that have an emotional and historical tie brings joy to Greg and Leah. They are able to help bring back memories for the owner, while also creating new ones.
“Not everyone has the money to buy the expensive cars, like the ones you see on TV or at a car show,” Greg mentions. “By focusing on the average population, we are helping Susie make memories with her children when they take their car to go get ice cream. Or Frank, when he takes his aging father for a drive around town in the Oldsmobile he used to drive.”
Sometimes, it comes down to the paint finish — with a specific, recognizable paint color — to help bring a memory to life. The flawless finishes on their cars would not be possible without their brand new Ultra XS Paint Booth from Global Finishing Solutions (GFS). The installation of the booth was completed nearly four months ago, and five cars have already been sprayed in it. They currently have a 2.5-year wait list for restorations.
“This GFS spray booth is the best booth I’ve ever sprayed in,” Greg said. “When I come out of the paint booth, I’m so happy because it makes my life a lot easier.”
Greg discovered GFS through his partnership with Keystone, in which he was informed of the benefits of GFS equipment.
“It made sense financially, and I liked the product,” Greg said. “We ended up buying the paint booth from Don Putney at Collision Equipment Experts, and we absolutely love it. What I really like is the SpaceSaver air heater — the way everything is stored on top, and we don’t have all the extra stuff laying around. It’s really nice and clean.”
As far as the future of Greg’s Speed Shop, they won’t be slowing down anytime soon. With plans for expansion on their 80-acre lot, their goal is to create a mini 1940s town, complete with vehicle storage to keep vintage cars protected from the harsh Wisconsin winters. You may even start to see Greg’s Speed Shops in a town near you.