Upholstery business keeping Victoria man busier than expected
By KALEY CONNER
VICTORIA -- As the saying goes, sometimes a window opens when one door closes.
Such was the case when Troy Gasper was told by a doctor to find a new job approximately nine years ago. Chronic pain in his shoulders and elbows made it difficult for him to continue his 15-year construction career.
Gasper decided to pursue a longtime interest in upholstery work and opened his own business, Gasper Auto Trim and Upholstery, in Victoria after a year of technical school in Wyoming. Business has been getting better ever since.
"I put in about 50 hours of work every week in the winter, up to 70 in the summer," Gasper said. "I never thought I'd be this busy."
Thanks mostly to word of mouth, customers throughout Kansas and even in the surrounding states are keeping Gasper occupied with a variety of upholstery projects.
Several car dealers in the area bring him automobile seats that need repaired. Many collectors also have hired him to customize the interiors of their antique trucks and hot rods. He even has built and installed extra auto seats.
That work has helped Gasper earn widespread recognition. Projects he has worked on have been featured in hobbyist magazines five times, bringing customers from far outside northwest Kansas.
There's only one minor obstacle.
"Where's Victoria at?" Gasper said with a chuckle, acknowledging some customers are surprised to hear his business is based in small-town Kansas.
Gasper, along with his wife and two children, had lived in Victoria for years, and he wasn't interested in relocating.
However, geography doesn't stop the orders from flowing in. His small workshop at 301 Main was lined with future projects on a weekday afternoon in late January.
Furniture is another business niche for Gasper. Many customers ask him to give their old home decor a new look.
Customers can purchase their own material for upholstery projects, or Gasper can offer them a selection from the fabric vendors he partners with. Leather and faux-leather styles are especially popular, he said.
While a sluggish economy has slowed some construction businesses, that's not the case for Gasper.
"If people can't afford to buy a new boat or a new piece of furniture, it's cheaper sometimes to have it recovered than to buy new," he said.
Businesses also have hired Gasper for remodel projects. He recently reupholstered cushions for all of a church's pews and is preparing to recover booths for a Hays eatery.
Gasper does not have any employees, but sometimes calls on family members to help when things get especially hectic.
This year looks to be another promising one. Gasper already has seven complete hot rod remodels on his schedule.
"Sometimes it's seven days a week," he said of his business.