Artistry through Renovation and Restoration

NATE BISSEY, pictured above, left, is the proud new owner of Tech-Ni-Kolor in Dwight – taking over the reigns from Larry Seabert, above, right, who has retired after 23 years of owning and operating the business.

Tech-Ni-Kolor Owner Larry Seabert Retires

by Bridget DeWaard “I started out working an hour or so after school, doing little things like taking bumpers off and putting things together,” Nathan began, remembering the first time he stepped foot in Tech-Ni-Kolor as an employee. “Then on Saturdays, I would come in and sweep the floors. I started learning little by little from Larry and the other guys in the shop how to do different things in body work.” Initially participating in the shadow program offered at Dwight Township High School, Bissey took to the job quickly, deciding after just three weeks to ask for a more permanent position working after school. He’s been at the shop alongside Larry ever since, recently making the switch from employee to owner after purchasing the shop this past year. The contract was finalized last September, with Larry staying on through January to ensure a smooth and comfortable transition from owner to owner. Larry remembered Nathan starting out at the shop in his younger days; a similar start, in fact, to Larry’s own first steps into the industry. “He worked for me for ten years, even through the summers,” he said. “Everyone loves him, and all of my employees have stayed on to continue working for him. I know he’ll keep the business going the same direction, and deliver the same quality of work.” Opening Tech-Ni-Kolor in January of 1998, Larry always loved tinkering with things that moved. “When I was young, I had a paper route, and I would mess with the bicycles,” Larry said, chuckling at the memory of some of his very first projects. Later on, working with Perry Wilson at Boyer’s after school via the tutoring program, Larry soon traded bicycles for cars, picking up more than just technical skills from the new position. “One of the very first things I remember learning was how to get a job done on time,” Larry said. “I learned a lot.” Staying there until the late ’70s, Boyer’s really got Larry’s creative juices flowing, working on

Bissey has kept the staff at Tech-Ni-Kolor, including Meredith Gestner.

custom hot rods, painting motorcycles, and helping to rebuild vehicles. Beyond the starter design and modification projects, Larry also did essential repair work, learning how to fix and erase collision damage. As years went by, he would eventually spend some time working from home, and then for Howard Rub, managing the business there until 1997. “Finally, with the help of Steve Wilkey and First National Bank, I was able to make my dream come true,” Larry said, proudly remembering opening Tech-Ni-Kolor. “We were even able to open with newer equipment not yet offered in the area.” The shop was now officially open, the start of 23 years of impeccable and unmatched service. Though he enjoys all aspects of the job, Larry’s favorite place to be at the shop is hours deep into a custom car, restoring a rusted relic to its former glory. “It’s the whole thing,” Seabert described, caught up for a moment as he drifts into project mode. “Your brain starts going on it, thinking of ideas, what you can do to improve it; completing pieces of the job, even crossing things off the list; and seeing the final product at the end.” It takes an artist’s eye to unearth the hidden potential laying under corroded metal or buried beneath years of dust, carefully breathing life back into the bare frame of a long forgotten classic. With a car for a canvas Seabert paints moving murals, carefully crafted sculptures, a subtle ode to the work of artists before him. Though he fell in love with the process, Larry hadn’t intended to show his projects until someone stopped by, and managed to spy a truck he had recently restored. The truck, planned to be a shop car, went on to a show instead, and Larry would find himself hungering (Continued on page 14) for more projects. Many more adventures would stem from that first chance show, the start of nostalgia fueled road trips and life-long connections, bonded by a love of renovation. Soon, other restoration enthusiasts were seeking Larry out, bringing him cars to transform and creating beautiful collaborative projects that would later go on to win at various shows. “Phil Becker and I put together at least three separate cars over the years,” he said, thinking back on the pieces. “And Marty Sampson ended up bringing me a 1940 Ford to fix up. We got to travel to at least six different cities, and won quite a bit with that Ford. It’s been a blast the whole time,” he said, transported back for a moment to the excitement, and the indescribable feeling of cruising in a completed project. “They were the icing on the cake,” Seabert said of the shows, which to him, weren’t really the goal of the renovations. “But it makes you feel good, to be a part of that.” After 56 years in the trade, and his wife, Shirley, missing her travel partner, Larry felt he was ready to slow down, and sell the shop. “We’re hoping to take some long motorcycle trips, up to Canada,” he said. “Before she would go on trips and always complain that I couldn’t go with – now I can,” he said contentedly with a laugh. Having seen first hand Nathan’s metal and painting work, Larry asked if he might be interested in purchasing Tech-Ni-Kolor. Unsure at first, Bissey warmed to the idea after a discussion with his wife, and officially moved forward with the purchase. Already loving the range of projects that find their way through Tech-Ni-Kolor’s doors, his favorite is a recent one, a roof palomino mower. “It won’t be 100% original,” he said. “But it should look pretty cool when we get it all done.” Down at the shop, Bissey’s boys Cayden and Colin are already hard at work themselves, helping with sweeping and trashes, following in their father’s footsteps. His wife, Jen, has been by his side throughout the entire process, offering extra support as they head in this new direction together, as have the employees, the community and the customers. “I really want to thank Larry and Shirley, for the opportunity they gave me all those years ago,” Bissey said. “And wish Larry the best in his retirement.” As for Larry, aside from traveling, he plans to continue working on restoration projects, currently leasing out the back room from Nathan in the shop. “Right now, I’m building a truck, out of leftover parts,” he said excitedly. “I’m thinking of starting on a motorcycle next.” Looking back on the years spent at the shop, Larry remembered, too, all those he had met through the business, and all those friends who stayed close, even as time dictated their lives take different directions. “Some of the suppliers I worked with, they became great friends, some I still keep in touch with,” he said. “And the customers – I’ve had so much fun. They’ve all been so great.” “And of course, the people you grew up around, the people that got you where you are today,” he continued reflecting on those he was able to lean on, when times were rough. “All good friends that helped when you didn’t know what the heck you were doing. And older business owners, always willing to reach out and give advice.” Those like Howard Rub, who served as an inspiration for Seabert, and Glen Willard, who ran the job training program he was a part of in high school. There were too many to name, but of course, he remains beyond grateful for all those who gassed him up along life’s ride, tilting that fuel line back up to full. “All in all,” he said in jovial summation, “It’s been a good run.”