THREE RIVERS – Have you ever watched TV shows where they follow the day-to-day operations of a unique business?
Over the years, there are some good ones you can recall whether it was hot rods, or restoring antiques.
Well, President of Performance Top Drives Rodney Gisler lives that everyday he walked into work.
If you have every driven on Hwy 281 at any point around the Three Rivers area, you have probably seen the hunting high rack, customized trucks in their parking lot.
Gisler said he has had numerous interviews from news stations and a few channels in regards to his operation.
“We had the Learning Channel, A&E and Vivid contact us,” he said. “The Discovery Channel came down and stayed one month to film everything.”
They called it, “What The Truck.”
That was the name of the show if it advanced past the pilot stage.
“They were really excited about doing a series on us,” Gisler said about the Discovery Channel pilot.
“Everything went great, they filmed the pilot and went ahead and filed the first episode. They were excited about getting contracts drawn up. The President of Discovery liked it and gave it a thumbs up, but wanted to get the opinion of the public first due how this show is centered around hunting trucks. So, Discovery sent the pilot to their public board to view and the decision came back two weeks later.
“The Discovery representative walked up and looked like he was whooped with his head down. He said the public board completely downed the entire show. They said they did not think there was enough interest in hunting to make the show work. I couldn’t believe it. But then, Discovery told me the board was based in New York City and understood why.”
Nevertheless, Performance Top Drives has been providing ASE Certified Technicians for automotive repair, along with customizing hunting rigs.
“In my younger years, Leroy Kaatz Sr. owned an auto repari shop in Three Rivers,” Gisler said. “I used to work there during the summers of junior and high school, learning my dream of becoming a mechanic. After attending college and several years of automotive service experience, I came back to Three Rivers and opened my own shop where I had worked through school, after all, that was my dream.”
A Three Rivers Class of 1984 graduate, Gisler opened in 1991 when he was only 27 and has exponentially expanded over the years.
“After seven years of opening the old brown shop, we started adding hunting accessories to existing hunting trucks for our customers,” he said. “That is when it started getting busy. So two years later we built a bigger auto shop because we needed more room. Four years after that we built our fabrication shop.”
Employing around 40 people, according to Gisler, the shop has remained busy despite downturns in the economy, along with current COVID-19 conditions and stock market crashes over the years.
“During COVID-19 we became slow in March when the pandemic kicked off,” Gisler said. “People were just scared of the situation. We were slow for March and April and going into May. That was very odd for us, but then it just took off about the end of May and now we are super busy again.”
From sports celebrities, movie stars to politicians, the shop will customize any hunting truck to any needs.
“I love to design the hunting trucks,” Gisler said. “I love meeting with clients for detailed trucks to see how they want it built. We have built rigs for people like the Princess of Morocco once and shipped it to Morocco. We have also done rigs for Stone Cold Steve Austin, numerous sports celebrities and politicians from both sides. My customers give me ideas with direction and let me explore and dream with my designs, what a cool job.”
With COVID-19 conditions in place, Performance Top Drives strives in supplying PPE equipment for its employees.
“Our employees are super important to us and we look at each other like family,” Gisler said. “We want to protect them, so my wife JoLynn went online and found PPE masks for every employee. They are the respiratory circulated masks and the employees love them.
“We have someone that is in charge for COVID-19 and he makes sure everyone wears their masks and stays six feet apart. He takes their temperature every hour and a half and logs it down all day long. Our guys are special to us and want to keep us safe.”
Another impact COVID-19 has on the industry is finding components for projects.
“Getting the parts is becoming an issue,” Gisler said. “A lot of factories are shut down right now. It’s hard to find little brackets and parts for the trucks. We keep a good inventory, but it’s difficult to find specialty parts.”
Customers that are interested in having a hunting truck to their liking can simply walk in and speak to Gisler.
“All rigs are drawn out by our crew for design,” he said. “From there, it can take two weeks for a smaller rig to complete, but as much as a year on some of the special builds depending on the project and how fancy the customer wants it. This isn’t stuff we can just bolt on. We are fabricating every little piece, then we paint it, wire it and do the upholstery and its done.”
The popularity of customized hunting trucks has increased over the years, but Gisler mentioned the amount of repeat customers come back.
“We have a lot of repeat business and new customers,” he said. “I would say its 70 percent repeat and 30 percent new customers.”
Performance Top Drives is located at 210 N. Harborth Ave.
Chris Filoteo is the editor at The Progress and can be reached at 830-254-8088, or at karnes@mySouTex.com.