A Marked Legacy

Brandon’s Accent Striping & Lettering Company has grown from a one-man operation to one of the area’s most well-known auto enhancement shops

By Eva Wasney

When Allen Grebinski leased a van and started offering door-to-door vehicle striping and graphics services in the Westman area 29 years ago, he had no idea what the industry had in store for him.

Today, Grebinski is the president of Accent Striping & Lettering Company in Brandon – one of the most recognized vehicle enhancement shops in Western Manitoba.

“It’s grown from just myself to a number of staff members and it’s gone farther than five years, which is what I expected I’d be in this business for,” he said. “I thought I’d just do this for a while and I still love it.”

Within a few years, Grebinski moved operations from the van to a rented shop on one of Brandon’s main drags before settling into Accent’s current location at 532 1st St.

The shop has four service bays, including one that can accommodate semi-trucks, and nine full-time staff members.

While the business started off in striping and graphics, Grebinski says it’s actually a small percentage of what the shop does these days. Accent’s services also include creating custom signage and logos and installing vehicle lettering and wraps; as well as window tinting and performance vehicle accessories sales.

The decision to expand into accessories stemmed from customer requests and Grebinski’s own interest in vehicle customization.

“It’s a nice little niche market, we sell a little bit of the performance parts and accessories for guys with their hot rods,” he said, adding that he’s currently working on a 1968 Pontiac Firebird. “My older brothers were an influence with their hot rods, so I kind of got interested in vehicles because of them.”

Grebinski is from Regina and started doing vehicle striping and vinyl stripe repairs while working at a body shop in the city. He decided to branch out on his own when an opportunity arose in Brandon.

All in the family

Accent became a family business two decades ago when Grebinski’s wife Lori decided to join him in the shop after the birth of their son.

“I couldn’t have got this far without my wife, I’ve got to give her props,” he said. “It helped streamline things and it’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off.”

Lori says it’s easiest to describe her position as Accent’s controller, but in reality, she does a wide range of things from managing the office to accounting.

Growing up, her father was also self-employed so she’s well-versed in the commitment required to be an entrepreneur. The “drive to get everything done” is her favourite part of the job.

“It takes a special breed to work and to do it all together,” she said, adding that she and Grebinski have benefited from outlawing shop talk at home.

As part of the management team at Accent, Lori says the people who work there are what set the business apart.

“We’ve got lots of years with knowledgeable staff – three of our staff have been here a very long time, so we’ve got lots of experience and knowledge in different areas,” she said.

Lori was born and raised in Brandon and giving back to the local community has become an ingrained part of the business. The couple regularly contributes to fundraisers for the Westman Dreams for Kids Foundation and the Westman Traditional Christmas Dinner; and Accent has also done vehicle wraps for the local Operation Red Nose fleet free-of-charge.

“If there’s someone in need, we definitely step up,” Lori said. “We just donated some signs to the Humboldt Broncos display at the Keystone Centre – everybody has hard times, it’s some little comfort to help people get along.”

“Our staff members take pride in their work and strive to do a good job for the customer.”

– Allen Grebinski, Accent Striping & Lettering Company

Changing up with the times

Since establishing Accent in 1989, Grebinski says the biggest challenge has been keeping up with the changes in technology. When he first started working in vehicle graphics, computers weren’t part of the workflow.

“Until the computers came along, it was just buying kits and ordering lettering from other companies that could afford the expense of computers at that time,” he said.

Now, Accent has two full-time graphic designers who create custom logos and signage for customers in-house.

Grebinski says the shop’s customer base is an even split between individuals who want to customize the look of their ride and businesses looking to add logos and advertising to their company fleet.

When a customer approaches Accent with an idea, the graphic designers interpret their vision and the installers get to work making the design a reality. Depending on the size of the vehicle and the complexity of the job, the work can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

“Our staff members take pride in their work and strive to do a good job for the customer,” Grebinski said. “If the customer is not 100 per cent satisfied, we will work towards them being 100 per cent satisfied.”

In addition to word-of-mouth recommendations from happy customers, Accent has found success attracting new clients through industry groups like the Construction Association of Rural Manitoba (CARM). While the automotive shop doesn’t work directly in construction, many of their customers do.

“It has given us exposure to companies that may not have known what we do,” Grebinski said of the perks of being a CARM member.

When asked what his future goals for Accent are, Grebinski says he hopes to continue to build on the services the shop currently offers, and he hopes to hire one or two more staff members to keep up with demand.

Visit www.accentautotrim.ca for more examples of the company’s work.