About the Low Range Off-Road Family by Sean Conk (LONG READ)
In the Beginning
It seems like my family has been involved with off road motor sports in one way or another for as long as I can remember. We’ve always had dirt bikes or four-wheelers for riding in all the great areas we have here near our home in northern Utah. Sure, we spent a lot of time visiting the beautiful red rock areas in Southern Utah, but never really did any ‘slick-rock’ other than hiking and boating around the Lake Powell area.
We have a close family friend who took a trip to Moab, did a couple of trails in a Jeep, and could not stop talking about how much fun this new (to us) form of offroading was. “Give us a break” I told Don, “it can’t be that much fun”! Eventually he talked my Dad into buying something to join him in his new found passion. In an effort to not spend a lot of money he settled on looking for a Samurai for sale in the local nickle paper. What he found was a completely stock Sammy that an older gentleman had put together out of 3 different colored Samurais. Before he got to enjoy his finished creation he sadly passed away and his family decided to sell it off. One look at this cute little John Deer Yellow conception, a deal was struck and we took it home. He front inner fenders were blue, the inside of the doors were red, and the drive-train was from yet another samurai. It was a Frankenstein but the new Yellow paint outside looked great!
One trip to Moab, a couple of beautiful trails later, and we were all hooked. Turns out Don was right all along, it was that much fun! The problem was that 'Tweety' was basically bone stock and needed some upgrades if it was going to do some of the many more difficult trails in the Moab area. 'Tweety' is what we called the Samurai because when we bought it, it had Tweety floor mats, spare tire cover, mudflaps, key chain, and even a Tweety shaped air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. A few months went by and after some research, an aftermarket Suzuki parts supplier was found on the Internet. It was a local business that was only about 25 miles away. Little did I know then, that 3 years later I would get a job there and ended up working there for almost 2 years. I had been turning wrenches for a living before that and wanted to try something new. Although I am grateful for the education and experience I got from working there, I did not agree with some of the business plans and I wanted to be on my own.
This was a hobby that appealed to me because it was something that involved the whole family and I loved trying new things and seeing new places off road. I too enjoy building a rig on my own, I think its half the fun! I knew I could help people just like you who enjoy testing, building, and showing off your unique rig. After consulting with my wife Maria, (convincing here that quitting my full time job was a good idea) I knew a small customer focused parts outlet could be feasible on our own so we risked it right in our own home. For the first year or so she kept her full time job in order to support us while the business could get off its feet. I was not able to take a paycheck from the business for a year and we had a few months where money got real tight but we managed to get through it. Eventually she was able to join me at home taking care of our accounts and I would be lost without her. She is my life!
At first I thought that the Samurai and Toyota market might not support my new found business venture, so I started looking into supplying Jeep and full size parts. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see there are thousands of aftermarket jeep parts and places to buy them. Could I make it without trying to supply parts for the most popular rig that I don't have a devotion or passion to? Well, a few months into my new business adventure I determined that the Jeep market was not for me and I could specialize in Suzuki and Toyota fully.
As you probably know, my name is Sean and I am the oldest of three brothers who all call Low Range our home. All of us born right here in Provo, Utah. Chris, my younger brother, has helped build the business into what it is today with website updates, new products and suppliers and solid business ideas. He is one of the most intelligent individuals I know. He has owned several Toyota's, and was interested in them before High School. After several successful mechanic competitions, Chris took advantage of a scholarship at a Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for the Toyota ‘T-10' Program. He passed that at the top of his class and from there worked at the local Toyota dealership for several years. He decided to join with me and hasn’t looked back since. Now our youngest brother Brycen works with us and helps design many of our in-house products in our fab shop. He too is beginning to build his own off road rig and is a big asset to Low Range.
We have many new additions to Low Range "Family" over the past 7 years:
-James was our first employee, helping us in packing. He was with us for about 6 months before he moved on and we are thankful for his help during his time with us.
-Mark started the day James left and hit the ground running starting in November of 2009. He is basically family and has become our Operations Manager. He is a huge part of what Low Range is today.
-Dan started in March of 2010, he comes from northern California and has been a Samurai enthusiast for many years and is now our Sales Manager. Its never a dull day with Dan around.
-On April 29th, we welcomed the future "Boss" of Low Range Off-Road into the world. Gavin was 6 pounds, 12 ounces and believe it or not, he is the cutest little boy in the whole wide world! He is more of a hindrance when he comes to work than a help but give him a few years and he will think he knows everything.
-Nick started in May 2010, he came to us from the local Toyota dealership and works in our shop designing, building, and maintaining our project rigs. He also does just about anything else we throw at him. He has 3 of his own built Toyota's and has had Samurais in the past.
-Lee joined us in January of 2011 and has been a great help in shipping. He has 2 of his own built Toyota's so he knows his way around a rig. As we continued to grow he has become our full time Inventory manager. He was with us till March of 2013 when he went on to persue other things, we wish him well.
-In June of 2011, Colton who is now known as "Coco" stared as a packer. We soon saw that he would be better placed in our office on the phones. He also helps the marketing department with our website as well as building our RC product line. He has owned several Suzuki's and Toyota's and comes from a wheelin family. He is also big into the local 801 RC rock crawling competition crowd.
-In September 2011 because of rapid growth we added Chris, better known as "Kringle" and Mike. They have both fit into the team like they were meant to be here and have not looked back since. We are glad to have them both. Both have there own Toyota's continue to build them. Kringle is not working in our fab shop and Mike does our shipping and labeling of all packages going out the door.
-Tyler joined us in October of 2011 to help us with Tech and Sales calls. He has built to many rigs to count and has worked for several local dealers and Checker, now O'Rielly's Auto Parts. He has quickly become very valuable to Low Range. He has been taking care of our international customers as of late and does a great job.
-Steve, my dad, was recently laid off from his 35 year position as a concrete pipe salesman because of the economy. He joined the Low Range team in November of 2011 after a couple other short term jobs and some time on Unemployment. He filled another much needed place in sales at the front counter for a while and we hope to keep him around till he is to old to pick up a phone or make the coffee. In March of 2012 we purchased a product line called Opti-Lube and he has taken that line under his wing.
-In December of 2011, Cody started in our shop helping out Nick and building our Transfercases and Transmissions. He came to us from a local dealership and runs a Tacoma.
-In December of 2011, with again the need for more help in the shipping department, we added on Chelsea (yes a girl) to the team, she comes from a packing and shipping business so she already knew her way around a pallet jack. She is now a full time receiver working next to Lee. He does not know what he would do without her.
-Toni came in to help Maria in the accounting in December 2011 and was a huge help in getting the accounts up to speed. She was with us until June of 2012 and we are grateful for her help.
-As stated before in March of 2012 we acquired the Opti-Lube product line. With that came Raina. She new Opti-Lube inside and out and has been a great addition.
-In early 2012 with more growth the opening of our fabrication shop we added many new faces to the Family in no particular order:
-Jaren started in our shipping department, moved up to sales for a short time and then rotated back to shipping and is now our head packer. He runs a Samurai with a 22re motor and now had a 1Gen Toyota he is working on
-Will came to us (after not to much convincing) from running his own off road fab shop to help run ours. He has tons of experience in design and fabrication. He runs a full size SAS Blazer but we will get him over to the dark side soon enough.
-Tyler or 'Tinny' as some call him came in to help us in the fab shop and has a lot of automotive experience and wheeling seat time. He runs a army green Toyota pickup.
-Zach came to us all the way from Connecticut to help in the fab shop and can tig about as well as anyone. He also knows his way around a turbo so that could be fun! He doesn't have a rig yet....but I don’t think it will be to long.
-Jeremy, who happens to be family of Dan, came in to help in the Opt-Lube filling and shipping side of things. He doesn’t have a rig either.......but talks about it.
-Glen was added to the shipping team and was quickly moved to the sales team and has come to be an invaluable employee. He runs several Toyota including an FJ80.
-Adam was also added to the shipping team and is a hard worker and has lots of automotive experience. He runs a blacked out 4runner.
-Ryan came in as a packer and has now moved into our Sales team up front. He is a great addition with his knowledge of Toyota's. He runs a while Toyota pickup that he “thinks” is legal.
-Celina (yes another girl) was also added to the shipping team and now handles our Toyota Leveling Kit line. She runs a black and pink Sidekick.
-We also cannot forget the addition of Gieselle to not only the Low Range Family but to the Conk Family. Chris and Gieselle were married in March and she has been a huge addition to our marketing team. She does not come from a wheeling family but has melded into ours with no problems at all.
-In June of 2012, Allison came on board to fill Toni’s spot in accounting and has hit the ground running, she had been a huge help to Maria and we could not live without her as well. Her husband runs a 4runner and hit several trails with us.
-In August of 2012 we added on Coleman. Coleman comes from being a High School Automotive teacher for more than 30 years at Provo High School. In fact he was all 3 of us Conk boys teacher. Kind of weird being the boss of your old teacher, but I guess not anymore than the boss of your father.
Coleman has mad skills with instructions/procedure sheets and video editing. The work he has put out in the time we have had him is amazing with more to come.
-In 2013 we added Anthony to the Sales and Marketing team. Along with providing customers with technical advice he keeps our products up to date and manages item pricing.
-Another behind the scenes indirect employee of Low Range since mid 2008 is our friend at Rootform. Andrew has basically taken our once meager website to what it is today. He has been on the spot with all we ask of him even on nights, weekends, and holidays! He now works with us in-house and we could not live without him.
We think we have a great team and would not be where we are without our great family of employees and thank them whole heartedly.
Acquisition of Hawk Strictly Suzuki
Hawk Strictly Suzuki, who was a leader in the OE Suzuki parts market since 1986 and one of Low Range's suppliers was forced to close their doors in November of 2011. William Love who owned the company at the time sold the rights to the name and website to Low Range Off-Road in January 2012 and he also came on board as an employee of Low Range at that time. William was tied into our phone system and network from his location in Oregon and has been a huge help with his extensive knowledge of Suzuki vehicles not only in the states but internationally as well. I don’t know how many times I have dialed him or said “ask William” when no one else knows something about a Suzuki. I have referred to him and the “Suzuki Bible” several times.
As of November 2012 William made the move from Oregon to join us in house at our Orem, UT location and we hope him and his wife love it here in Utah.
Acquisition of the Opti-Lube Line of Products
In March of 2012 we purchased a product line under the name of Opti-Lube. (opti-lube.com) It was owned by a long time family friend that started the company and had kept it small for years. He saw the need for growth but did not have the means and resources to push it full time as he also had full time employment. We already had the packing, shipping, e-commerce experience, space, and personnel to push it as much as it needs. The anchor of the product line is a Diesel Fuel Additive that rated #1 on an independent study. The line also includes a Oil Fortifier and Greases that are far ahead of the current products on the market.
A few years have gone by since the business started and successfully ran out of one of my 10'x10' spare bedrooms, a 30'x30' garage as the warehouse and the kitchen counter as the shipping table. We moved into a 1100 sqft office warehouse for a year. Then across the street into a 5300 sqft building and after a few months tool over another 1500 sqft next to it. As of November 2011 we are now in our fourth location with over 9200 square feet under the roof with a large show room, 5 offices, 2 break rooms, 3 bathrooms, warehouse and shop. Not to mention another 4000 sf of fenced in outside space to store current projects and used parts. In May of 2012 we signed a lease on another location one building south of us for fabrication use. It added another 7700 sqft to our size and we have already filled it with equipment and vehicles.
It far exceeds anything I thought that we would ever need or grow into. Without the help of Maria, Chris and he rest of the crew I know the business wouldn't be where it is today, for that I thank them so much. We have all spent countless hours devoted to making your experience with us as beneficial and helpful as possible. I would like to think our customer service is what has kept us so successful. I hope you look to us as your first source for parts and advice in making your off roader better.
As I continue to see our business grow, I never take for granted that I get to enjoy being involved in a business that most people are doing for the sheer fun of this great pastime. Thanks for making it a great ride!
Low Range Off-Road
*Updated November 2014