| Danbury News
Friday, March 9, 2001
|The News-Times/Wendy Carlson|
|If you need to replace a hubcap for your Hupmobile, Doug Yeomans, left, and his brother Dwight may have it at the Hubcap House in New Milford.|
|By Joe Gould
|Hubcap business a labor of love|
|NEW MILFORD - You might be wondering what two clean-cut gentlemen
like the Yeomans brothers are doing in the hubcap business anyway.
Dwight and Doug Yeomans say most people walking into their subcap-adorned shack off Route 7 expect an old man with a Doberman on a chain, not two chipper thirty some- things.
"One lady came in and asked "Where's the old men?"" Doug said.. "She expected two old men in rocking chairs with cig- ars. Everyone expects to have to dig through piles. They don't expect it to be clean and come in a bag."
The brothers believe the secret of their success lies in keeping a balance between good service and quirky shabbiness.
"We try not to keep it too clean," Doug joked. "People will stop coming."
The Yeomans brothers guess they have about 30,000 hub- caps in stock. Many are fairly new and plastic. Some date back to the 1950's. The average cost is $25. Their most valu- able hubcap was a rare Rolls Royce center cap, probably from a 1980 Corniche.
At the counter, hubcaps hang behind the Yeomans like chrome halos. They're on wooden racks in the back room. They're in cardboard boxes in the attic.
"The jumble's in order," Doug said of one room.
Stacks and stacks clutter their musty basement, leaning against each other and the Sheetrock walls. Grimy hub- caps waiting to be washed are piled in the basement slop sink next to a box of scouring pads. Behind the red fence out back, piles of hubcaps peek out of the snow, waiting to be sorted.
If the Yeomans brothers love hubcaps, it may be because it runs in the family. Their father collected hubcaps he found as he was growing up in Man- chseter during the 1940s.
After he introduced his sons to collecting hubcaps as teen- agers, they became enthralled.
"When my wife and I first started going out," Dwight said, "I used to see hubcaps on the side of the road. I would look at it just see if it was usable, and I could tell it was from an '84 Oldsmobile. She'd say I was full of it."
In 1989, Doug was going to a friend's house when he got stuck in dense traffic on Route 7. He realized that the well- traveled road would be per- fect for a hubcap business.
"Whereas most people are disgusted, I was impressed by it," he said.
These days, the brothers split the duties and keep cre- ative regular hours -- Wednes- days and weekends or by appointment.
Dwight lives in Windsor with his wife. He handles most of the business, traveling from dealership to dealership trad- ing and selling when he isn't behind the counter.
Doug lives nest door, above Golden Thistle Antiques. He helps keep the books, but he's also a real estate agent at Weichert Realtors in Ridgefield.
Both brothers clean the hub- caps, which take "elbow grease" as well as a lot of Windex and S.O.S. pads."
It's a labor of love, the broth- ers say, as evidenced by some of their uncanny talents.
When Dwight spotted a Toy- ota Tercel pulling into the parking lot during business hours Wednesday, He muttered its missing wheel cover's se- rial number under his breath, "116-131."
Half of their business is with auto dealerships and parts stores, 30 percent is through their Web site and the rest is walk-ins.
The brothers get their hub- caps by trading with other hubcap dealers, through a few select distributors and through auto dealerships. At dealerships, they often sell a set of new hubcaps for a used car before it's cleaned. Dealerships often trade what was on the car to defray the cost.
Doug laughed at the idea that they fence stolen hubcaps from street kids.
It's just not good business sense, said Dwight.
Hubcap House got its own Web site last year -- www.hubcap- house.com, naturally. Doug said orders trickled in at one each week at first. six months age, they hit the current rate of five each day.
The brothers have sent hubcaps to northern Canada, to California, and recently a set of four 1965 Mustang hubcaps went to a U.S. Air Force base in Montana.
Doug said the company recently landed a contract with the national Fuddruckers restaurant chain to supply 300 hubcap from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s to decorate the chain's Southern restaurants.
Other recent good fortune included this year's harsh weather, which peppered area toads with hubcap-jarring potholes Drivers with newly lost hubcaps are expected to come in a steady stream as the thaw begins.
Not everyone who buys hubcaps from the brothers puts them on their car. Years ago, Doug said, a woman bought hubcap to use as a dip plate at a party. Another woman recently bought hubcaps because she heard the reflective surface would scare crows from her garden.
Every once in a while, under the road grime of a found hubcap, the brothers discover one with a return address, so that the owner might get it back.
"We'll call them up, tell them we have it and send it back to them," Dwight said. "They want to know, "Where did you find it?""
Count Mary Ellen McDonald, of New Canaan, and her 80-year-old mother among Hubcap House's satisfied customers.
Her mother discovered the brothers through word of mouth and got a special wire hubcap for her 1989 Chevrolet Caprice below what it would have cost to buy the wheel cover new.
The last time McDonald's mother brought a hubcap it was at a Norwalk junk yard, and that "wasn't like talking to these guys," McDonald said. "It's like ordering from a catalog. They seem to enjoy what they're doing, and that's so important."
Contact Joe Gould
or at (860) 354-2275.
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