BELLWOOD — Dan Baker says he is named the grille man.
“After I stroll across the automotive exhibits, folks say, ‘There goes the grille man,’” mentioned Baker, 55, proprietor of Alumicraft Road Rod Grilles at 550 N. Fifth St.
In 2020, Baker’s enterprise was named Nationwide Road Rod Affiliation’s Producer of the 12 months.
Baker admits he was stunned by the popularity. He mentioned there are only some firms in america that manufacture scorching rod grilles and grille inserts, and the opposite firms are a lot bigger.
“It was an honor to be chosen as producer of the 12 months, to be in the identical league because the bigger companies,” Baker mentioned. “I used to be stunned and honored to be observed by my friends for what now we have been doing for 32 years. That sort of recognition is monumental.”
NSRA spokesman Jim Rowlett mentioned Baker and Alumicraft had been worthy of the award.
“The winner needs to be somebody who makes a big contribution to the game; he has carried out that via his grilles. There have been some fairly massive names within the trade who’ve received this award,” Rowlett mentioned. “There are only a few throughout the nation who do what he does and he’s the one one who does it the best way he does along with his private contact on each grille he makes. Folks from throughout the nation ship him grilles to duplicate. You may acknowledge one in every of his grilles while you see it.”
Baker’s father, Delmar, 81, began the enterprise in 1988 after his 1933 Ford Victoria hit a velocity bump and shattered the injected molded plastic grille. He ran it as a night enterprise for 10 years whereas working full time at Butterick in Altoona.
Delmar, who continues to assist his son with the enterprise, can also be thrilled concerning the nationwide recognition for the enterprise he based.
“It’s fairly a thrill to be named as producer of the 12 months,” he mentioned. “I by no means thought or dreamed about getting the award.”
Delmar mentioned that when he began the enterprise, he constructed grilles for slightly extra cash. When he retired, his son approached him and needed to know if he needed to promote him the enterprise.
“I by no means anticipated the enterprise to develop as a lot because it has,” Delmar mentioned. “It has expanded due to his data, aptitude and work ethic.”
Dan graduated from Bellwood-Antis Excessive Faculty in 1983 and took over his dad’s equipment restore service till that enterprise closed in 2000. He had began bending grille bars and welding grille inserts for him shortly after the grille enterprise opened.
Dan took over the enterprise when his dad retired from Butterick in January 1998, and began constructing grilles full time in March 2000.
“The enterprise was rising by leaps and bounds,” Dan mentioned.
At first, Alumicraft specialised in grille inserts for Dodges and Plymouths. The enterprise expanded into Fords within the mid-Nineteen Nineties.
Enterprise didn’t all the time go easily. In 2002, somebody set hearth to Dan’s home storage, burning it to the bottom and inflicting an estimated lack of $40,000 to $50,000. The storage was rebuilt and Dan bought the present location from Blair Signal Co. in 2005.
After the transfer into the brand new constructing, extra industrial grade sharpening tools and a milling machine had been added due to the elevated want for quicker machining with a greater end look.
Previous to 2015, the enterprise focused on grilles for pre-1941 automobiles.
“We wanted to vary due to a change within the demographics of the automotive trade,” Dan Baker mentioned. “With folks constructing muscle automobiles, to remain related, we began making grilles for muscle automobiles and traditional pickup vans. We nonetheless constructed grilles for warm rods however modified our focus. I may see the expansion potential.”
When the enterprise began, Alumicraft turned out about 30 grilles a 12 months. At the moment, about 250 are made per 12 months with the everyday price starting from $800 to $1,000. The merchandise are shipped worldwide, Dan mentioned.
His grilles and inserts are sometimes offered to sellers similar to Road Rod Elements and Memorabilia in Wilmington, Ohio, and BeBops Glassworks of Athens, Tenn.
“Dan and I met on the Road Rod Nationals round 2000 in Columbus,” Road Rod Elements proprietor Jim Burger mentioned. “We purchase grille inserts from him. Dan takes his time. When he will get it carried out, it’s very nice high quality. I by no means have had an issue that it doesn’t match when he makes it.”
BeBops co-owner Teresa Witt mentioned, “I purchase 1933 and 1934 grilles from him. His merchandise are glorious. He’s the one one I purchase from.”
Witt mentioned Dan Baker “is a superb man to work with. He makes one of the best grilles on the market. He’ll work with you to construct what you want.”
The COVID-19 pandemic might have helped enterprise.
“With guys staying residence, that they had extra time to work on their automobiles,” Dan mentioned. “For guys with scorching rods, that is their play cash. They’ve discretionary cash to do that.”
Baker mentioned that for his prospects, normally if they’ve one automotive, they’ve multiples.
“My prospects are guys of their 60s and 70s which can be reliving the glory days. After they had been in highschool, they needed a scorching rod however they couldn’t afford one or their dad and mom wouldn’t allow them to,” he mentioned. “They’ve discretionary revenue and are having enjoyable.”
For the long run, Alumicraft Road Rod Grilles has began to construct extra muscle automotive grilles, together with Tri-5 Chevys, First Gen Camaros, Corvettes, First Gen Chevy II/Novas and Mustangs amongst others, whereas nonetheless including to the road rod line up.
The Baker file
Identify: Dan Baker
Place: Proprietor of Alumicraft Road Rod Grilles
Training: 1983 graduate of Bellwood-Antis Excessive Faculty
Household: Spouse, Ginger; kids Elizabeth and Ethan; dad and mom Delmar and Carol Baker; and brothers, Ray and Tom Baker.