Cool Hand Customs to Expand Business

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren
Co-owners of Cool Hand Customs, Amy and EJ Fitzgerald, in front of their shop with their daughter Jade. The couple is planning to expand their Middleton business.

MIDDLETON–EJ and Amy Fitzgerald, co-owners of Cool Hand Customs, have been doing custom car and motorcycle builds at the corner of Clark and Lee Streets for the last 10 years. The couple are looking to expand their operation but worried about how they will fit in with a changing landscape.

EJ and Amy saidthey took a risk when they decided to walk away from their construction business and open their own custom motorcycle and car shop. EJ says it was something he always wanted to do, and construction wasn’t offering a lot. 

“I’m going to be an old man with busted up knees and nothing else,” he said. 

Amy’s mom encouraged them to start a business with EJ’s passion for doing custom paint and body work on motorcycles and cars. EJ had reservations. 

“This is going from stuff that somebody might need to get done on their house to a complete extravagance,” he recalled.

“No one needs us, we are not a necessity, we are absolutely for discretionary spending money,” Amy agreed. 

Amy’s parents lent them some money to get the equipment they needed to start in their garage. 

She said it was probably not the most sound finical choice in the start of the recession.

Ten years ago, they came across the building located at 2404 Clark St. between Paul’s Neighborhood Bar and Clark Street Community School.

The building had many uses over the years and with a little bit of work they could make it work for their operation. In 48 days, they remodeled the inside and opened the business, Amy said. 

EJ likes doing what is called a ‘restomod’ which is a mix of old and new technology to create the best of both worlds, matching classic styling with modern comfort, performance and reliability.

He doesn’t like doing full restorations, restoring everything to how it came out of the factory, though he is willing to if that’s what a customer wants. 

“Our biggest thing here is that we build drivers,” Amy explained. “We want them to look like high quality show cars but if you want to drive across country with it you can, because it has the modern motor, the brakes, the steering, the things that are going to give you the level of comfort that people demand these days.”

Cool Hand Customs has been featured in car magazines and online publications. They have also had a presence at Specially Equipment Market Association (SEMA) car show held annually in Las Vegas. EJ sit on builder’s panels at event. EJ said for him that’s is the biggest payoff. 

“My biggest goal is to be able to go to these industry shows and get recognition from these guys I grew up watching build stuff,” EJ said. “To have them come by and talk about the car, that has always been my goal.”

After 10 years of business Cool Hand Customs would like to expand to be able to take on two cars at once and hire an employee to help.

They said they are also interested in working with the school to offer education program. 

Their idea is to expand on site so the north portion of the building would extend to the east. That would allow space to store a couple cars indoors. 

The shop is located directly south of the proposed townhome and apartment proposal from T. Wall Enterprises. Wall hopes to break ground on the project by October which includes 19 three story townhomes and an 87-unit apartment building.

When they presented their expansion proposal to the plan commission it was mostly looked at in terms of how it would fit in with the planned residential development.

Amy said city staff have been supportive, but she did not expect to leave the plan commission meeting with more questions than answers.

Before they can finish their expansion plans, they are waiting to hear back from city engineers about how a sidewalk would potentially cut through their property giving them less room to expand. But EJ said for now they are sticking to their plan. 

“We get something in our head and as long as it continues to move in the right direction, we don’t give up,” EJ commented. 

Amy said she can’t help but feel affected by the uncertainty and says she worries about how the construction may impact their business. She added that they will definitely stay at the location for another couple years while their daughter finishes high school but are considering finding another location for the business.

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