Back in the 1970s, when Corvette replacement parts were sometimes hard to come by, Wayne Walker decided to take matters into his own hands and made a gas line for his 1961 Corvette.
From that humble beginning, when he soon began selling his products at swap meets around the country, Walker has built a global Corvette parts business called Zip Products Inc – also known as Zip Corvette – that he turned over to his son, David, when he retired in 1994.
And if you’re not convinced yet that Corvettes are a world-wide phenomenon, consider that Zip’s biggest customer now is a re-seller in Holland! David says that Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden are key markets for his company, too. “They all have Corvette clubs,” he notes.
Wayne Walker was a true pioneer in the Corvette parts business. “His first swap meets were in 1975 and 1976 before the company got started,” David says. “He would show up in a station wagon with parts. The company grew from the swap meets.”
And it’s continued to grow, even in the midst of the current economic downturn. Revenues grew 7 percent in 2011 over the previous year.
That’s no surprise, really, considering Zip has consistently grown since the beginning. The company began by offering fuel and brake lines and quickly expanded to all fuel-related parts, producing a 120-page of parts by 1988.
“Today, we have six catalogs that have over 800 pages collectively of parts and accessories just for Corvettes,” Walker said. “We are really passionate about Corvettes around here.”
The company’s Mechanicsville headquarters, built in 1986, houses support staff, a call center, installation facility, research department and warehouse with more than 25,000 Corvette parts. Key factors in Zip’s growth have been customer service and technology.
“We have one of the most advanced websites available,” Walker said. “We have real-time access to our inventory. We make it a priority to get the part out the door.”
Most of the company’s sales are from referrals.
“We have a strong local following of Corvette owners,” Walker said. “The Corvette Club of Richmond is one of the oldest in the nation with about 350 to 400 members.”
And if you’re wondering where the company got its name, it was from Mr. Zip, the caricature that the Postal Service used to promote ZIP codes in the beginning. Seems that Wayne Walker, who was active in motorsports back then, used a drawing of Mr. Zip on the side of his race car, and Mr. Zip was even his CB radio handle.
“When it came time to name the business, there was no other name than Zip,” David said.