Meet the Kings of Vinyl
By Chris Collier
Justin Norton bought a roll of vinyl and pulled his 2005 Chevrolet Corvette into his garage. A car enthusiast with an eye for the little things, Norton had just picked up his newly-wrapped ride. But instead of pleasure, he saw a lot of those little things.
“There were small things that I noticed — where they didn’t take mirrors off , door handles out [and] didn’t pull the bumpers,” Norton said. “They just kind of slapped wrap over what was there. Being from the performance industry and the car industry, I looked at the car and said, ‘I can pull that bumper off in an hour, pull these mirrors off in 15 minutes and these door handles.’ I looked at it and just went, ‘If I knew how to work with the vinyl, I could do better.’”
Norton was right. After finishing his first installation, he took his Corvette to a local car show and gained major attention.
“A local Atlanta Falcons football player saw it at that show,” Norton said. “[He] loved it and was blown away by the quality. Back then, people weren’t pulling bumpers and disassembling the car in the way that I was. Immediately after that, he had asked me do one of his cars and then local artist, Future Hendrix, happened to see the one that I did for him and he brought me a car.”
Still without a shop, Norton wrapped Future’s Mercedes in his two-car garage.
“Future came over to the house and picked it up,” Norton said. “When he picked up the ‘Benz that I did for him, he was so impressed. He said, ‘follow me back to the house, and you’re going to do every car in my fleet.’ By doing that, I instantly looked at the wife and I said, ‘I’ve got to find us a building.’”
Atlanta Custom Wraps
Norton founded Atlanta Custom Wraps (ACW), Woodstock Ga., in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Today, he runs the company with his wife Danielle. The ACW team includes three full-time installers, one part-time installer and a technician/detailer. The company did 468 color-change wraps in 2020, amassing $1.5 million in sales along the way. From winning Worldwide Stand-Out Wrap Shop of the year at SEMA 2018 to wrapping a $3.5 million Koenigsegg, the team at ACW is proud of its accomplishments. But Norton never began wrapping for the fame and fortune.
“My favorite thing to do in my past time was to hang out in the garage, messing with cars with my buddies,” Norton said. “That’s still what I do every day—now we do it on a substantially larger scale and have built some worldwide fame from it. But ultimately, I have the coolest job in the world. I hang out with some of my best friends and make really cool cars even cooler.”
Gaining Market Share
Breaking into the vinyl wrap market can be a tall order. Triet Nguyen, owner of Platinum Auto Wraps, Minneapolis, Minn., recommends newcomers start by discovering the artistic inspiration of their customers.
“[Customers] have an idea of what they want,” Nguyen said. “They just want you to work your magic to make it different, make it creative [and] bring out their personality and their lifestyle. It’s definitely really important to dig deep into exactly what they want.”
Alex Canepa, partner and vice president of sales at CarWraps.Com, Los Angeles, Calif., said professionalism is crucial to gain a foothold in the vinyl wrap game—for both veterans and newcomers.
“We try to come across as corporate,” Canepa said. “We’re CarWraps.Com. You see the custom cars, [and] you also see a lot of high-end vans [wrapped]—like KROQ radio, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and UCLA. I think that when it comes to that, as far as a car wraps company, I don’t know of anybody else here that’s as professional as we are.”
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