Henry Ford once said "A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business." This quote fits Eric Saliba, owner of The Little Shop of Horrors in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, perfectly. Eric has known since graduating from college in North Carolina (at the ripe old age of 20), that building minitrucks isn't going to make him rich.
He's said on many occasions that it's simply a "labor of love." Just before he was due to hop on a plane and head west to pursue his graduate studies in philosophy, young Eric decided that he'd rather stay home and cut up his buddies' trucks for a living. Makes perfect sense right? Right! So out to his parents' two-car garage he went with Sawzall in hand. His sister soon dubbed the garage "Eric's Little Shop of Horrors." The name stuck, but the two-car garage quickly became too "little" to handle all the local trucks lining up to have work done.
Fast forward about six years and three shops later, business is booming and trucks are still lining up. But the days of second-gen Dimes coming down for a quick 'bag job on 17s are long gone. Now it's a common occurrence to see trucks from all over the country inside the walls of the Little Shop getting the full treatment. At this most recent shop shin-dig, plates from Delaware to Louisiana and many points in between were spotted lying around. One-off this, stock-floor that, front-end swaps, and custom sheetmetal beds galore are the common themes in the shop these days. What seems to impress most folks about the LSOH, no matter their age or involvement in minitrucks, is the quality of metalwork and attention to detail going into the most subtle things. From the ridiculous amount of man hours put into the Little Shop Special, to a simple gusset on a crossmember that will never see the sun, their work remains top-notch. Just because it gets carpet laid over it, or has a bed covering it up, Eric still knows it's there, and he wants it to be perfect. Eric and Bradley (that is it for the long list of LSOH employees) both know shops that cut corners or do something half-ass just so they can turn a buck won't last very long. To be as young as he was starting out, one might think Eric was taking the two-grand for each bag job and buying some new wheels for his personal ride. Negative, my friend. Every time you visit the shop you'll find a new piece of machinery or new tool lying around. Maybe it's an 8-foot sheetmetal shear, or maybe it's just replacing some broken vise grips, but investing in the shop is first priority.
At Mini Truckin Nat's 2004 in Nashville, Eric woke up to find Mike Alexander's business card taped to the rear window of the now infamous Little Shop Special which was nothing more than a frame and body shell resting on some 20s at the time. This was the first real recognition for the shop. That summer Eric and crew hauled the Blazer, along with whatever else he could, to every show possible. While the Blazer may have gotten the LSOH some attention, it's the quality of work put into every job on every vehicle that rolls through the shop that keeps your attention and keeps Eric in business. The shop also received national recognition in recent years when Eric appeared on Spike TV's TRUCKS! to help out on "Project BodyBag.'" Later on, the ever popular Spike Truck was also featured on the Power Block, (before it decided it wanted a "Flame Job"). Minitrucks may have put the LSOH on the map, but currently there are a few projects bordering on the street rod side of things. That doesn't mean Eric is trying to get away from trucks, it just shows what the shop is capable of and that people outside the truck community are taking notice.
Eric will be the first to admit he didn't get to this point all by himself. Those early days in his parents' garage weren't spent alone. The same can be said today. Eric and Bradley may be the only guys on the payroll, but anytime a show rolls around you'll see the old lackeys popping in to lend a hand. Maybe it's because they're bored, or maybe it's because they know this so-called hobby, and this shop, are about more than making money. It doesn't matter what club you're in, how black your socks are, where you're from, or how much money you got, you get the same treatment at the LSOH. So what did our old friend Henry mean when he said a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business? Well, by now you should know what he meant, and if you haven't figured it out, you probably need to go online or stop by The Little Shop of Horrors and see what this place is all about. And for the record, helping out in the shop won't get you much of a discount. Hey, times are tough, and Eric's gotta keep his pay-as-you-go cell phone in service after all. If things pick up he may even add text messaging someday.
Shop Name: The Little Shop of Horrors
Owner: Eric Saliba
Number of Employees: 3.5
Employee Names and Position:
Eric Saliba - Owner and builder
Bradley James - Right-Hand Man
Helpers: Nathan Becker (.5), Terrance Mullins (.5), Seth Duncan (.5), Skyler Smith (.5)
Shop comedian: Pascal Barone IV (.5)
Address: 150 South Mahr Ave., Lawrenceburg, TN 38464
Future Plans: Finish the Blazer in this lifetime
Read this month's Hot Seat to get the scoop on the Spike Truck "Flame Job".
Special Thanks From Owner:
"People always come up to me at shows and compliment our work like it was just me doing it, but I want to point out that I've had a lot of help over the years. Truth is, on any given project I spend 25% of my time on the phone with the owner, 50% of it on the interweb (maybe more), and 25% working on the trucks. Bradley on the other hand, spends 100% of his time with his nose buried in the work. So shake this guy's hand next time you see him! I'd also like to thank the customers, current and past, that have invested in what we do here. I'm blessed to have had the opportunities to work on some neat stuff and meet cool people that would be my friends regardless of whether trucks were in the picture or not. Most people drop off a truck as strangers and pick it up as good friends, and that, folks, is what it's all about."