New venture in new year partners past and present
Opening a motorcycle repair shop has been a long time dream of Steve Crumpler, 58, of Bridge City. The lifelong resident, machinist and businessman, has partnered with Tre’ and Christine Rayon, a husband and wife motorcycle mechanic team. Steve says, “I feel like a kid again,” and is positive about the new venture.
Extreme Kustom Motorcycles is located on the corner of Texas Ave. and Champagne. The home of the new business is a long standing building with an interesting history.
In March of 1960, James Otha Crumpler wrote his name in the still wet concrete that became the foundation of a building and a family business that has stood the test of time. Otha was an honest, family man. He worked hard except on Sundays due to his strong Christian beliefs. He started out doing machine work for MacFarlanes in Orange. Otha bought some new tools: a lay and a saw, with no intention of starting his own business. MacFarlanes viewed it differently and fired him. He came home with the sad news to three, young children and “Mama”, expecting their fourth child. With tears in her eyes, she asked, “James Otha, what are we gonna do?” He replied, “By the grace of God, we will make it.”
Otha was the first to build a house on Champagne Street, still a dirt road at the time. Forced to re-evaluate his path in life, he started working out of his double garage. Customers from his previous employer, looking for ‘the skinny guy that did such good work’, tracked him down and brought him their business. Texas Avenue soon became under construction, with big trucks commissioned for the job, parked up and down Champagne Street. When one needed repair, a note would be displayed on the steering wheel for Otha to see. He kept the fleet running, sometimes working all night long. (Talk about being in the right place at the right time)
Otha and his helpers worked on expanding the double garage into a much larger shop when business was slow. Most of the time business was good and five years later, he went home one evening and told his wife, Ava Jeanne, he had made a big mistake. Bracing for bad news, she asks, “Otha, what’s wrong?” He replied, “I built way too small.”
In 1965, Otha and his brother, DC, bought five acres of land at the other end of Texas Avenue, where the ‘new’ shop that houses Crumpler’s Machine and Welding, at 335 Bland Drive, is still located. Again the building was built when business was slow, by the hands of Otha and a few of his helpers. Iron workers picketed out front because he was not using union labor. Otha politely told them, “If you want to picket, that’s fine, but I can build whatever I want to.” Two weeks later the picketers left. The business continued to grow along with the family. After graduation from high school, Otha’s daughters got a new car as an incentive to go to college. Sons were destined to work in the family business. (No car until they earned it)
Otha’s youngest son, Steve Crumpler, grew up on Champagne St. tinkering with lawn mowers. He liked to tear things apart and put them back together. He attended Bridge City High School where he was awarded the nickname “Stumpy” and graduated in 1974. He married Cindy, the love of his life, in 1979. With a good head for business, like his Dad, managing the family business became his primary role at the age of 30. He has faced many challenges along the way including business upgrades, a fire and a hurricane that resulted in massive flooding.
The old shop was leased to Redbird Chemicals for a short time in the late 1970’s. A fire broke out and burned everything but the steel frame and foundation. All was rebuilt except for 20 feet of office space in the front. You can still see where chemicals eroded the slab exposing rocks in several areas. The building was never leased out again and waited patiently for many years for a new purpose. At one point in time, Steve received a few letters requesting the old building be taken down due to its weathered appearance. Steve gave the letters to wife, Cindy, who wrote back to the city and the letters stopped coming.
In September, 2008, it seemed like Hurricane Ike blew the whole Gulf of Mexico into Bridge City. Like most business and home owners, Steve was shocked by the extent of the damage and did not have flood insurance. He opened the door to the shop and saw all the mud on the floor and the machines tipped over. He noticed a piece of cardboard on a table nearby. Wondering how on earth it had managed to stay there, he took the cardboard, laid it on the floor and got down on his knees to pray. All alone, not knowing whether to rebuild or throw in the towel, he spoke to God like an old friend, “Lord, this old business has been going on a long time, my brother has a broken back, and my sisters can’t physically do the work. I don’t know if you want me to stay open. If you do you will have to tell me.” Moments later, he heard a voice behind him asking, “Steve, are we going to stay open?” It was one of his employees. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Yes.” Not long after several more employees began to show up to help. When they ask where and how to begin, Steve told them, with the confidence of an inspired man, “First, we are going to clean up a spot to eat and take a break in.”
“It was like a load was lifted off my shoulders when the answers came so easily,” Steve said. After many long days and late nights, the machine shop was back in business before the temporary curfew in Bridge City was lifted. They were possibly the first business to get back to work. Before reopening, Steve ask Pastor Ray McDowell, of the Church of the Nazarene in Orange where he and Cindy are longtime members, to come and bless the shop. Many companies, due to storm damage desperately needed the work they were able to provide. Ironically, the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike helped the family business to make back all the money the repairs and cleanup had cost.
Steve says re-investing in the business is important to stay current and prepared for future generations to carry on. He remembers when folks kept asking him for an e-mail address and he didn’t have one. He began praying about it. There was one computer in the office when he decided to purchase one for every employee and have them networked. “I hired a computer goo roo,” he said. He also purchased auto cad, a computer aided drafting/design program and computerized lays, which opened a whole new realm of business. Once he started being able to produce computerized drawings, even more business started pouring in and the company grew.
Crumplers Machine Shop business is 57 years old. “That’s a long time for a family business to thrive,” Steve says proudly, “My family hangs together.” Steve has learned a successful business takes patience and doesn’t happen overnight. “You start small. You take out only enough money to live on and keep investing back into the business, instead of buying boats and motorcycles. Reputation is number one,” he adds.
Like his Dad, Steve knows it rains on the just and the unjust. He firmly believes all good things in life come to those who love the Lord. Although today he has the business, the motorcycle, the fifth wheel, etc., he doesn’t want to be remembered for what he owns. He wants his kids and grandkids to say, “I know one thing about Paw Paw, he loved God.”
Steve always wanted a motorcycle, but his Dad was deathly afraid of them and strongly discouraged him from owning one. Steve’s respect for his Dad outweighed his yearning to own a motorcycle. He humbly said he was not the kind of son to say, “Oh well, I’m 21, I’m going to do what I want to do anyway.” He wouldn’t dare scare his parents or go against their wishes. He patiently waited until he was 55 years old to buy one.
Otha Crumpler passed away almost three years ago. One Saturday morning, two weeks after his Dad’s funeral, Steve got up and dressed to go out. Cindy asks him where he was going. He told her he was off to buy a motorcycle. She shook her head and said, “I knew this day would come.” Steve has a great respect for motorcycles, too. When the salesperson handed him the keys to his new bike, he handed them back and said he was going to have a friend drive it to his house for him and put it in the garage. The shocked salesperson asks him why. He explained he had not driven one before and added, “Stupidity hurts.” He began learning to ride by taking his bike out late at night and riding for short distances on Hoo Hoo road. He practiced for months then started riding back and forth on Hwy 105 between Hwy 62 and Hwy 87 until he felt confident enough to take the safety course and get his license.
With the family business on solid ground, Steve began praying about opening a motorcycle shop. He finally decided to take the plunge. When he shared his idea with Cindy, she asks, “Why would you do such a thing? Most folks in their late 50’s are planning retirement adventures.” Steve replied, “If our forefathers had thought like that this country would be in bad shape. And I just like being in business.” Steve loves his wife dearly and cannot imagine life without her by his side. He compliments her faith in God, patience, intelligence and enjoys her company. They enjoy traveling and stopping in antiques stores along the way, where little Texaco trucks are purchased to add to their collection. She has been the wind beneath his wings for almost 35 years.
With Cindy on board, Steve began making his dream into reality. He knew he wanted a certified mechanic in the shop. He met Tre’ and Christine Rayon. They all became good friends and discussions of a business partnership began. With the new business now open, they are ready to repair your motorcycles and four wheelers and get them in great running condition. They specialize in building and painting custom bikes. The couple is expecting their first child in early May, a baby girl.
Steve is still learning after many years of business management and giving seasoned advice when needed. He is becoming familiar with working on motorcycles. He wants to understand the time it takes to do the work.
After standing vacant for many years, the historic building on the corner of Texas Avenue and Champagne Street is alive again with shiny motorcycles, a new office area and a heater you have got to feel to believe. It will soon be sporting a sparkling new sign which will hang proudly from the old sign post and read ”Extreme Kustom Motorcycles.” Again, Pastor Ray McDowell was ask to come and bless the shop. But Steve’s not done yet. Keep an eye out for something springing up next door to the new business in the not too distant future, but don’t ever expect to see them open on Sundays.
Did you make a new year’s resolution? Was it to lose weight, stop smoking or spend more time with your family? Maybe you resolved to find your true path and follow your dreams. If so, look no further than long time, successful Bridge City business man, Steve Crumpler, for a good example to follow. He is living proof it’s never too late to take action by praying and trusting in God for “good orderly direction.”
Steve Crumpler of Bridge City has spent his life as an owner/manager of Crumpler Machine Shop. His passion for motorcycle riding has spurred a new venture. In the original machine shop opened by his father, Crumpler has opened Extreme Kustom Motorcycles with Tre’ and Christine Rayon. RECORD PHOTOS: Mark Dunn