Chris Freybler

May 8, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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BYRON CENTER — He goes bald so you don't have to.

Or at least that is what Chris Freybler, president of Custom Engraving, tells his customers.

"We like to put everyone at ease. Dale tells them we're professionals, so don't try this at home," he said. "We just try to use humor intertwined with our professionalism to create relationships with clients."

Freybler, along with his brother, Dale Freybler, vice president, owns the engraving company and hones the craft he learned when he was very young. "I started making rubber stamps when I was about 10," Freybler said. From there he learned everything he knows in his mom and dad's engraving shop in Jenison.

Growing up in the industry, Freybler hoped to one day own his own shop. When the time was right, he started his own shop in Byron Center. Upon starting Custom Engraving, Freybler decided, along with his brother, to put all of the skills he had learned into one shop, therefore trying anything that came along.

"Sometimes I think he is trying to give me a nervous breakdown," Dale said. "There are times I look at him and say, 'Do you know what you just did?'"

"No job is too little or too big, and we are willing, or I am willing, to take chances on unique projects that maybe some other shops wouldn't try," Freybler joked. "All the customers are treated the same no matter if it is a $3,000 job or a $16 job, and we look at every job as an opportunity."

Custom Engraving does laser engraving on wood, acrylic, leather, rubber, coated brass and aluminum; computerized engraving on anything from plastic to stainless steel, including brass, aluminum, gold, silver and pewter; glass etching on glass, crystal and marble; and vinyl cutting for requested signage. Freybler also "prints" Braille on signs, some directly for a customer and others for other sign shops that don't have the technology to do it.

"With the machines we buy, they are usually purchased for one specific use," said Freybler. "However, we like to max them out. When we buy a machine, we like to challenge it and use it for every job we know it can perform; therefore, we like to challenge ourselves to try new things and attempt new jobs."

The company incorporated in September 2000 and is operating exactly the same now as it was then. But expansion is in the cards.

"There is a loyalty in this area to do business with the people around you and that has definitely helped us, as well as the business we are gaining from the south and Grand Rapids," he said.

"We are only two guys working in this shop, but you'd be amazed at the projects we can handle and that we can take on. However, with an upcoming job that we are currently bidding on, we will have to add staff and possibly even square feet."

While Chris Freybler handles the creative side of the engraving, Dale handles the production side, overlapping a bit and complementing each other at the same time. Freybler does most of the design work for clients as well as trying to interpret an idea someone may want to visualize.

"Many people have an idea in their head of what they want to see or what they want done, and we have to ask as many questions as possible so we can get that idea out of their head and onto paper," he said.

After 17 years in the engraving business Freybler has seen a technological evolution take place, and he has taken it one step further through the Internet. Custom Engraving's Web site, www.customengravinginc.com, provides customers with more than 700 items in catalogue form, direct from the supplier.

The customer can choose the item they are interested in and send Custom Engraving the work they would like performed on it. "The transaction still must take place in our store, but we offer customers a chance to see every product we can order and offer them before they even step foot in our shop," Freybler said.

Another advantage the Web site offers customers is the ability to custom design rubber stamps. The process is simple: Click on the area of the Web site labeled "rubber stamps," choose the type of stamp you would like, choose to customize your own stamp and choose from many fonts, clip art images and layouts, enter your desired text, view your custom design and order.

This allows each customer to have complete control over the design of the stamp. "This feature is unique and very popular because it allows the customer to sit right down at their computer and design something that they are going to use often," Freybler said. "By saving that image and setting, the customer can also update it at any time, order additional stamps or make changes when needed."

In his free minutes, which are few and far between with a new business venture, Freybler enjoys softball, hunting, fishing, spending time with his family and tasting some of Dale's (the master cook) recipes.

Through future growth and a willingness to always try new things, Freybler has carved his niche in his family-learned skill.

"Things have been going very well since we opened and we hope they stay that way. We know we are a small shop, but that is not what matters," said Freybler. "It is not how large of a business, but how you do business that matters."

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