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Shop Profile: Grunion Customs

Not Just A Mom-'N'-Pop Shop

Mike Alexander
Dec 1, 2010
Contributors: Kevin Whipps
Photographers: Kevin Whipps, Grunion Customs
It's kind of funny how the custom-car scene works. Some people get into fabrication as a hobby, just something to do for a few friends, and end up becoming experts in the field.
Others go into it to try to become famous in the magazines and get their own TV show so everyone can see how cool they are. Kevin Brumfield doesn't really fit into either category. Although he's been building amazing cars, trucks and motorcycles for almost 20 years, at times he comes off as shy and a little bit reserved. He's not building cars for the fame or the recognition; he's doing it because he loves his job.
Kevin started off working with his dad in the garage, learning little things here and there. Like most kids his age, he was into bicycles and spent a lot of time at the local bike shop. He wasn't very tall at the time; in fact, he was so short that he didn't even clear the display cases in front of the register. So when he'd come into the shop, he'd pull himself up by the case and say hi, which would frequently scare the people behind the counter. On one occasion, the salesperson said, "Man, you jumped up like a damned grunion!" From then on, Kevin had a new nickname.
So what is a grunion exactly? As it turns out, that salesperson at the bike shop used to go out to the beach every year to go hunting for these strange fish. Those silvery-colored animals have an unusual mating ritual in which the male and female both beach themselves to deposit their eggs in the wet sand, typically at night. Then, in the late evening with the moon full, most of the fish pop out of the sand and go back into the water, which is when the hunters chase them down. Those fish are known as grunion.
Kevin spent most of his younger years honing his skills, first on bicycles, then on dirt bikes, motorcycles, and trucks. He became friends with the industry leaders in the scene and really started to develop a reputation for knowing what he was talking about. He was picking up certifications along the way as well, and now Kevin is known around town for his engineering and welding skills, which are second to none.
About 10 years ago, Kevin started up his shop in north Phoenix, in 1,000 square feet of space with garage doors barely large enough to fit most cars. From there he expanded to a large space, then another, each time stepping up in size until he moved into the current property, right off Cave Creek Road and Sweetwater in Phoenix. The facility has two large bays, with plenty of room for parts, project vehicles, and even some storage out back.
Along the way, Kevin met Elaine, and the two were married. Now, Elaine is in charge of the front of the shop, handling the website, wholesale, and retail sales. That's right, Grunion Customs isn't just about burning metal and chopping tops, they have a full-service retail facility that carries lots of parts in stock, and they can get whatever the customer needs. Just a quick glance at the front counter shows dozens of Slam Specialties airbags, Viair compressors, AccuAir Suspension controllers, and fittings galore, plus clothing, metal parts, and wheels, all of which are either on hand or just a quick order away.
So what's next for Kevin and his crew at Grunion? In the past few years, local shops in Phoenix have been dropping off the map and the economy has dropped in the crapper, and yet Kevin's shop has swelled in size. As a result, some of the other shops in town are now using Grunion as their own local supply house, something that Kevin wants to expand in time. Eventually, Grunion will start doing more and more mail-order work, which will take over a big part of their business. But, that doesn't mean that Kevin's going to stop working on trucks. No, he's got way too many things that he wants to build and a lot of ideas rolling around in his head. He may be a mild-mannered guy, but he's got big plans for Grunion Customs, and so far, they're all coming to fruition.
Shop Name: Grunion Customs
Owners: Kevin & Elaine Brumfield
Number of Employees: 6
Employee Names & Position:
Kevin Brumfield - Owner and fabricator
Elaine - Owner, web, wholesale and retail sales, and shipping
Matt Wolf - Sales and parts counter
Jon Ryder - Shop foreman and fabricator
Chucky Bond - Mechanic/fabricator
Robby Whistler - Part-time mechanic and fabricator
Address: 13011 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone Number: (602) 258-0088


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