“That’s where the magic happens,” Emjee “Diesel” Bekker said as she demonstrated the application of hydrography – a decorative material that can be applied to many surfaces – at her store in the city of Tehachapi.
And there’s a lot of magic going on at Hydrochrome, the company Bekker started about seven years ago. You may be surprised to learn the range of products and services that he and his team of four offer at the company’s store located at 325 Industrial Parkway.
Hydrochrome was selected as Small Business of the Year in the annual awards program sponsored by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News. The company will receive its award at the Room Set-up and Awards Dinner on May 21.
What is hydrochrome?
Think of the transformation of a paint and body shop into an industrial design studio and you might be describing Hydrochrome.
It is true that the company specializes in high-end custom finishes. It’s also true that Hydrochrome – which Bekker started in his garage – is constantly evolving. The services also include manufacturing and the artistry of the owner is evident.
Using Spectra Chrome, a spray-on chrome process, Hydrochrome Shop can add a long-lasting glossy finish in many colors to almost anything. Projects range from artwork to interior design, automotive parts and automotive customization and restoration.
Projects included gold chrome pads for blader Damon Franklin, gold chrome trim for Gotham Garage, and a shiny dome used as a stage prop for the Grammy Awards.
Maybe you’d like to have chrome teddy bears — or shiny coating on balloon creations — or guitar bodies, or even bathtubs! From functional to whimsical – if you can imagine it, Hydrochrome can help bring your dream to life.
“We make special things for people,” Bekker said.
Several pieces from a project in the shop were recently awaiting a chrome finish and will then be shipped to a customer for use in a high-end salon in New York. A range of projects are on display at the entrance to the store, including auto parts covered in brightly colored graphics.
Custom fabrication – including parts for wind turbines – is also part of the mix and Bekker said a 17-foot-tall CNC (computer numerical control) mill will soon be installed in the shop’s fabrication area, allowing even more creativity.
Some of Hydrochrome’s efforts have gone to community service.
Notable examples include:
• One-of-a-kind chrome tumbleweed artwork donated to auction in support of Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic & Adult Behavioral Health.
• A custom helmet created for a young girl who races toy cars.
• Cars for kids to use in the Stallion Springs box car race.
• A custom paint job for the plane built by high school students as part of the Tehachapi Build-A-Plane project sponsored by the Tehachapi Society of Pilots.
“It’s good to give back,” he said of those efforts. “It’s all about community.”
Bekker moved with his family to Lancaster when he was 14, then to Tehachapi where he graduated from eighth grade and completed high school.
First he had to learn English, then he started learning all the skills he could. He did welding, tiling, roofing and carpentry before entering the painting industry and learning bodywork.
“Then it really intrigued me, I went to college and got into fiberglass. I kept working on my skills and one day I just said, you know, I ‘m done working for someone else,” he said.
Prior to starting Hydrochrome, he also worked around the world for around eight years, operating large cranes. He said he was happy to go home to work, which allows him to use his artistic skills.
He and his wife, Sarah, have a 5-year-old daughter, Emma.
“She’s amazing,” he said.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be contacted by email: [email protected].