Shop Profile: Custom Auto & Upholstery Center

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on April 4th, 2014

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Custom Auto & Upholstery Center

Press of Atlantic City recently published a profile of Custom Auto & Upholstery Center, a Pleasantville, N.J. shop that’s been in the business for decades and maintains a pretty positive outlook on the industry’s state of affairs.

The article is interesting, not just because it allows us to peer into a another trimmer’s shop, but because it provides some interesting insight on how big (or small) our industry really is. For instance — before reading any further — can you guess how many auto trimmers there are in the United States?

Here is a short excerpt from the piece:

“You don’t see many shops like this around,” said Bill Simpkins, 75, who started Custom Auto & Upholstery Center on South New Road in Pleasantville 35 years ago. “We fabricate everything.” […]

Simpkins said few workers specialize in this sort of trade. He picked it up from his father, who ran an auto top and glass shop in Mays Landing.

“It’s a skilled business, it’s very skilled. You don’t find people in this business,” he said.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reaffirms the specialty of the upholstery business. There were about 430 upholsterers in New Jersey in 2012 and fewer than 28,000 in the U.S.

After decades in the business, Simpkins still has a bright outlook on its future. He said the down economy of the past few years had little impact.

“We worked our way through the bad times,” he said. “Of course it’s not as good as the good times. … I see a good future in the business. Cars are never going to go out. You’ll always have automobiles.”

Particularly thanks to truck seats and other upholstery that gets heavy use, there also will be customers.

“We’re busy all the time.” For all the truckers and all your repair guys, carpenters, electricians, maintenance people, I have them in here almost every day,” he said. [more]

We double checked the article’s figure of 28,000 upholsterers nationwide and found it to be incorrect. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2012 Occupational Handbook, the correct number is 46,900 upholsterers. Of them, a mere 5 percent work in the craft of auto trim. That’s just 2,345 trimmers.

To put that in perspective, 2010 figures by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that there are an estimated 242 million cars in the United States. That’s just one auto trimmer for every 103,198 cars.

Other factors aside, I’d say Simpkins’ outlook for the industry is pretty spot on. One doesn’t have to be a mathematician to recognize its enormous potential for growth.




One Response

  1. Those of us who have been in this industry for years agree. Unfortunately, those in charge of most state vocational systems are not interested,nor willing to give this trade any consideration as a viable path to long term employment.True trim shops will continue to decrease in numbers as more of us reach retirement age.THIS IS NOT A NEW PROBLEM.Our industry has done a poor job of attracting young people,it has failed to gain public awareness as a true profession, and done little to create conversation with those in education ,and elected to office. It’s not too late,make an appointment to discuss this with your local school or college dean. Bring the above statistics with you. Perhaps you may be able to get several other shop owners from your area to join you. Give it a try, we have nothing to lose.


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