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Meet Rocky Frost of Custom Auto Body
Rocky, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far. As a junior at Mission Bay High School, my dad asked me if I wanted to start an auto body shop. Before he even finished his sentence I said yes. But, it really didn’t start that day. Since I was old enough to get my hands on my dad’s tools, I was taking things apart. At age 6, I took apart my very first bicycle to make it faster and “cool” looking. That was the beginning of the end. We found a distant relative that was the manager of Ocean Beach Auto Body (no longer around) and asked if he could paint one of my bikes.
My dad raised the topic of building a shop in Kearny Mesa and he was all in. While finishing up high school and 5 years at college, I took every auto, metal, wood and electrical shop classes that I could. I also worked and learned everything about the business from our manager and employees. I took over the business after graduating from SDSU, Starting with customizations and restorations, the shop quickly moved into the once lucrative collision repair industry.
Expanding and growing to 19 employees, the shop was not only extremely busy but also gaining its high-quality reputation in workmanship and customer service. Then in 2008, things changed rapidly. We found ourselves trying to compete with consolidators and other shops grabbing at insurance referrals. Instead of joining the less profitable market, we made the easy decision of going back to our roots of restorations and custom work.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Well, it was easier said than done. We struggled with marketing our services to car collectors and classic car dealers after our many years in the collision repair business. The most difficult issue was finding restoration technicians and painters that were qualified and skilled enough to excel in this endeavor.
Now, after almost 10 years, we have found our place in the industry with little competition and receiving referrals not only from collectors and dealers but even from several other auto body shops. Many shops refuse to take on older vehicles or even complete paint jobs, with strict attention to quality and detail.
We have finally come full circle, which now seems so obvious. But, as simple and easy as it looked, it wasn’t at all. Like any business, it takes passion, hard work and timing. I feel we are headed in the right direction for a successful future!
Custom Auto Body – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition? From antique cars and trucks to classic and muscle cars, there is very little that we will not work on. Custom hot rods and custom paint jobs have been exciting and successful to work on. We even work on brand new vehicles. Some of our customers will bring us a brand new purchase right from the dealer and ask us to paint it a special color or to install some custom parts. This also includes motorcycles.
One of our best customers brought us another new Ducati and dropped it off for us to create a wild custom paint job for it. He was so happy that we are currently painting the third bike of his. Besides motorcycles, we have painted antique appliances, outdoor signs and even very large art projects that have been installed all over the country. Many of our customers have won awards at various local and national shows. We are proud of these accomplishments, but I believe we are most proud of our customer’s visions for their vehicle and the happiness that it brings.
Even more than that, we are proud of our employees that have grown and thrived in this tough industries. We have seen our young men start families and enjoy life. We have also seen some of them successfully retire and we have unfortunately seen a few of them pass away. Overall, their successes have helped us succeed. They have trusted us through thick and thin. They have sometimes doubted the projects that we have worked on or the procedure as to which they followed.
But, overall, they have always agreed that there is very little that we will not work on.
What is “success” or “successful” for you? Personally, I define success as living a healthy and happy life. Besides, wanting to work on bikes and cars as a small child, I also wanted to live to 100. Like business, you need to have a plan and I have always had a plan on how to live long and healthy. This also becomes a lifestyle that many times becomes a model for family members and my technicians to follow.
I think small successes, such as accomplishing better eating habits or learning a new sport or watching family members and employees do so, serve as goals towards a successful life. Even completing art projects, whether they win top competitions or gain accolades, serve as an accomplishment in a successful life. Most importantly, it is just the thanks that I receive for the care and help that I provide.