2 years ago we bought a 1994 Oshkosh Stepvan. This summer we rolled it out (pun intended) as a mobile retail shop for Moore.
Here's the history:
1994 (the year I was born)
→ Purchased by Sara Lee Bread Company to be used as a delivery truck
→ Purchased by Dapper and Dame, one of our early retailers
→ Purchased by us knowing we wanted to turn it into a mobile shop but no immediate plans
→ After a 2 month overhaul from start to finish, we rolled it out at our first event
5 fun facts (you know, if you don't want to read this entire post)
- It was originally used to deliver bread for Sara Lee Bread Company.
- The second owner of this truck ran a shop called Dapper and Dame (one of our first retailers). He passed away right after we purchased this truck from him and his girlfriend. We hope he'd be proud of what we've done with it.
- We did the entire overhaul ourselves! Except for the vehicle maintenance. We don't know shit about that.
- The second we picked it up, Tanner ran into a pole at the gas station leaving a huge dent. Now you can't even tell he did that!
- We owned it for 2 years but the actual renovations only took us about 5 days.
We never had plans to buy a truck like this and turn it into a mobile shop. We spent the past years doing pop-up events with a tent setup to grow our business. Every time we would set up a tent, we would allow at least 2 hours per event for setup and at least an hour for tear down and load out. We did this every weekend, sometimes twice in a weekend, for about 4 years. Yes, it was damn exhausting.
So when we saw that our friends at Dapper and Dame decided to retire their truck, we thought about how nice it would be to roll up, open a door, and sell at events, rather than hauling and setting up a tent every weekend.
Our business was really starting to take off at this time, and we were able to pay cash for the truck, so we decided to pull the trigger and buy it.
We found out the day we were buying it that it was a stick. I have zero idea on how to drive stick but luckily Tanner is a pro because that's what he learned to drive on. So we designated Tanner as the only driver.
The fuel gauge was broken and it had been sitting for a while, so we went to a nearby gas station so we wouldn't run out of gas. Tanner wasn't used to driving it yet and he hit a pole near the gas pump leaving a huge dent on the side of the truck. I watched it happen and thought oh dear lord what did we just get ourselves into. Luckily our paint guy was able to fix it for pretty cheap.
During the time it was sitting at our shop prior to renovating it, it was sitting as an ugly, white, paint chipping truck with a flat tire. We showed up to the shop one day only to realize that it had been towed from our own shop. Our landlord assumed someone dumped it there (because it looked terrible) so we had to hunt it down and get it back....with a flat tire. What an adventure that day was.
It didn't pass emissions right away and we couldn't register or insure it before it passed. We didn't want to overhaul it before we knew it would pass so we had to get a new fuel injector which fixed the problem right away. Once we fixed that, we knew we could now move forward with the renovation process. No, we didn't know anything about diesel vans but we figured it out.
Our schedules got so hectic that we put the buildout process on hold and decided last spring that we either need to do this thing or say goodbye to the truck, which we really didn't want to do. So we took the free weekends that we had in spring before our busy summer of events and started to renovate it on our own. Tanner is good at building projects so we knew we would be the ones to do the buildout.
I ended up booking events with the truck before it was even painted to make sure that we would actually get it done in time for summer of 2019.
Now for the buildout!
Since it was renovated as a fashion truck before, they had already put up a frame for walls which saved us a lot of time and money to put up entire walls for our base. They did install flooring but because it sat so long it was all coming up, so we had to start from scratch (which was okay since we wanted to go with a lighter color anyways).
First, we gutted the flooring and other fixtures we didn't want or that were falling apart so that we could start with a clean slate. We kept the wall base so that we could continue to build off of it.
Then for the fun part.
We've been staying in a lot of modern cabins lately and were really inspired by the light wood on the walls, floors, and ceilings. We liked the bright feel that also felt like a modern cabin.
We took measurements so that we could try to buy exactly what we needed for the buildout.
We started with the flooring. We've never done flooring before but it turns out that it's really not that hard. Tanner cut the pieces as I put them down with our high school intern Alfredo who actually taught us a thing or two about how to do it!
Once the flooring was done, we started on the walls. It took about 2 days to get the walls on and looking good and about a day to do the flooring from start to finish.
Once the walls were finished, we then had to sit down and decide how we were going to display our products. Yes, we really didn't think about this until the walls were done.
We decided that the best way to display our shirts was to do racks and color coat the shirts so that we could best display a wide variety of products. Alfredo got really skilled with his laser cutter at school (how cool is it that his school has a laser cutter?) so he made us a peg board out of nice wood to display our stickers. He also laser cut us price signs on wood to tie everything together nicely.
We didn't want to get a generator for the truck because they can be noisy and a lot of events we go to actually don't allow us to have one. So we got battery powered lights for the truck when we have late night events. We also found that we can keep the truck relatively cool without an AC unit by creating a cross breeze with the doors open.
We put the final touches on the interior and stocked it the night before its first event. I was a bit anxious to bring it to its first event but was also super excited about the fact that we could just roll on up without having to spend 2 hours setting up our booth.
Where will we take it?
- Events. We've spent years attending makers markets and festivals and know from experience which ones are truck friendly and which ones are affordable for us bring the truck.
- Pop-ups at stores that sell our products around town. We've been adding many new retailers lately so we've been celebrating the launch of our products in their store by doing a pop-up outside their shop.
- Food truck rallies.
- Popular places around town like local breweries and coffee shops.
- Any other ideas? Let us know!
Will we drive it far? Hell no. We worry she wouldn't make it many places past our 40 mile bubble!
What did this project cost?
Van itself: $6,000
Tow from our landlord: $300
New tire: $100
Repair and maintenance to pass emissions: $1,300
Paint job and dent repair: $1,400 (vehicle wrap would've been about $11,000)
Interior wood paneling and floors: $700
New battery to replace the night before we had our first event: $70
Other maintenance to get it on the road: $700
Would we do this project again?
The short answer is yes! But a project like this isn't going to be for everyone. We like building things but we didn't know much about cars/vans/trucks and the maintenance they require. We have learned a lot since getting this truck and likely won't have it forever but it's been a really fun project to overhaul. After all, what is life if you don't get out of your comfort zone once in a while?