A Visit To Five Star
When I met and talked with Carl Schultz of Five Star Race Car Bodies last December at the PRI Show, I never thought it would lead to one of my most treasured relationships and experiences. Carl is one, among many, who didn’t know that Joe Shear had a daughter. Some may think that would bother me, but it never comes as a surprise, and I embrace those introductions because they usually turn out to be some of the best conversations, case in point. Carl and I discussed my visiting Five Star for a tour, and while I didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen, I knew it was going to happen one way or another.
After recently contacting Carl, he personally invited me to join them during their company luncheon. Talk about feeling honored! I was reluctant to say yes at first, simply out of not feeling worthy to step into something intended to recognize those who make Five Star what it is. But as I have learned, when someone personally invites you to something such as this, it means they want you to be there. So I said yes and I am so glad I did.
Having lived in Twin Lakes, WI for quite a few years as a kid, it was also going to be a little trip down memory lane. I made some time to drive by my old house, my old school, the lake we went to everyday in the summer, and even the old ice cream shop on the corner. It was just like I remembered, well, except the trees are a lot bigger and everything else seems a lot smaller.
One would think after living there, I would’ve been to Five Star at least once in my lifetime, but nope, I never had. So the experience was going to be a first.
I can honestly say that I didn’t really go into my visit with much by the way of expectation. I really had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t dream anything up in my head. When I pulled up and saw the sign and the buildings, my very first thought was, ‘I wonder what my dad would think right now?’ I found a parking spot, took a deep breath, and walked up to the front door. As I pulled open the door, I took another deep breath (I do a lot of that), and walked in.
I could not have been greeted in a more welcoming manor. Haley’s smile and welcome made the need for all of those deep breaths become a little less. I’ve known Corey for many years, so seeing him calmed my nerves a little bit, too. I’m just going to interject here. Not only is Five Star an amazing company, but the entire Schultz family is pretty amazing themselves. But I digress…once I stepped around the corner and saw a few of the guys I know, it was almost as if I was in my own environment.
James Straube was my wingman for the day. I was privileged to go through the tour with him. His extensive knowledge of Five Star made the entire experience come to life. Once the doors opened and we stepped into where all the magic happens, I was immediately overwhelmed…and all I was looking at were the shelves of inventory. As we walked up and down a few of the aisles and James explained what body or nose was for what series, my mind had already started spinning.
I have sworn myself to secrecy about many of the things I saw, so I am not going to go into any discreet details, but I will tell you that I have an entirely new appreciation and respect for Five Star, the industries they are involved in, and each and every person who makes Five Star what it is.
James and I took the tour backwards, which gave me a unique perspective. I was overwhelmed by what I saw on the shelves, but as we went through each step from the finished product to the very beginning, it just kept get getting better and better.
To see what was once just a concept come to life was such an incredible experience. As I watched each step take place I would just study it, squinting my eyes, furrowing my brow, and shaking my head a little bit (hopefully you didn’t notice that, James), as a way of trying to mentally capture it all. I guess when you don’t know what to expect, and then something over exceeds any expectation you could’ve ever had, you’re going to have a bit of a unexpected response. While the machines and the technology were absolutely amazing, what intrigued me the most, was how many people worked hands-on with each piece at each stage to make sure everything was Five Star quality…perfect.
Our final stop was the space where it all began. And let me tell you, it was a very small space! I had to do a double-take and reconfirm the amount of space James was showing me, just in case he was wrong. It just didn’t seem possible.
Carl completed my tour by introducing me to even more amazing things going on at Five Star and shared more of the history and a little bit about their future. By the time the tour officially ended, I was literally speechless. Yup…speechless. As the day came to an end, we spent a little time looking at some of the pictures hanging in the warehouse and his personal office. It was really cool to see so many of my dad and his cars. As his daughter, it is really special to me to know that others still like to be surrounded by and remember him.
I know most of us don’t sit around and think about everything that goes into everything we buy. But when it comes to racing, I’m the type of person who takes a deep interest in every single aspect. I don’t necessarily plan to use the information or even remember half of it, but it always amazes me how much I don’t know, and every time I learn something new, my love and appreciation for the sport grows that much deeper. When I’m at an event, a shop, or pretty much anything that has to do with racing, I am secretly scanning and thinking. I thank my dad for that. I’ve pretty much perfected the skill so that no one notices, cause I mean, it is kind of weird…..isn’t it?
I can’t say that I have ever taken for granted anything involved in racing, so I wouldn’t say that I have ever taken a race car body for granted, but I will tell you, that I look at them in an entirely different light now.
I’ve been to a few race shops since my visit, and as I saw bodies being mounted for the upcoming season, or already on the car, I didn’t just see a body on a race car, I saw the hands of each and every person I met at Five Star that day. It didn’t take much to see that they took pride in what they did. It is highly evident that Five Star takes pride in its products and the people making and selling those products, and in turn those people take pride in themselves, rightfully so.
Every sport has gotten faster and more advanced. People have even gotten faster, which is amazing to me. Records are being broken all the time because of the advancements in technology and the advancements in understanding the human body and the physiology behind it. I think racing has advanced in the same way.
Five Star is the perfect example of seeing where the sport has come from, how it has evolved, and where it is today. Carl has told me a few stories about the days when he worked with my dad. He recently shared how he was star struck when he met my dad for the first time. It’s kind of funny he used those words as they are words I use quite often in discussions with people I meet. He proceeded to say, “Making things that were good enough for him to use gave us a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to do more. I look at those times as being some of the highlights of my life. So hopefully you can see how influential and important Dad was to us.”
‘Wow!’ That was the only word that came to my mind. Then I thought, ‘He is talking about my dad. Carl Schultz is talking about my dad!’ And then I thought, ‘and he is taking the time to share not only his memories, but what is behind Five Star, with me…..me.’ I am not sure which part of that meant more.
Reflecting back on my day spent at Five Star, I humbly carry a little more pride in who my dad was for other people. I mentioned that I was there for their company luncheon. As he introduced me, Carl shared with his entire staff some incredible words about my dad, including how much he is missed not only by him, but so many others in the racing industry. I was probably about 36 shades of red. But I will tell you that a few of those shades were not from embarrassment, but from a wave of the humble honor I felt to be recognized with such respect as Joe Shear’s daughter. Many times Carl has reminded me how proud my dad would be if he could see me today, and I respectfully echo those words and confidently say that he would be proud to see where Five Star is today.
I cannot thank Carl, Corey, Haley, my wingman, James, Troy, and every other member of Five Star for making me feel like family. It will be a day that I will never forget. I will never see your industry the same and can’t wait to see and talk to you all soon.