By Kristin Schultz
After 10 years of repairing and selling wheels in Plainview, Long Island, Steve Barbera opened his company’s second location closer to his roots. Elite on Wheels Albany opened in East Greenbush in July in a former car dealership and is up and running, fixing dinged and dingy car wheels.
Barbera, who lives on Long Island, graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1988 and still has family in town.
“We are dedicated to serving the area,” said Barbera, one of several partners in the business. “We are a one-of-a-kind business.”
Car tires are mounted onto the car wheels and sometimes those wheels get damaged. Maybe your kid pulls too close to the curb and scratches two wheels, maybe you run over debris at highway speed and take a chunk out of the wheel or maybe you’re in an accident and bend or crack the wheel altogether.
Elite on Wheels takes care of those problems. Whether you drive a Ferrari 812 Superfast or a Ford Fiesta, Barbera prides himself on his company’s ability to repair and restore the wheels.
At the Rensselaer County facility, Barbera’s crew makes use of welding stations, a stripping and powder coating area, buffers and a software-powered CNC lathe that duplicates the manufacturer’s finish down to the finest detail.
Wheels can be done in just about any color or finish.
Barbera’s primary customers are businesses: collision centers, insurance companies and car dealerships. However, anyone can avail themselves of Elite’s services.
Barbera said he has repaired wheels for customers who need to return a leased car, but find it less expensive to repair dinged-up wheels through Elite on Wheels than it is to pay the dealer assessment.
“We want to be a cost savings,” Barbera said.
Elite on Wheels Albany currently employs 12 people, but Barbera said he could use “25 more.” Operations run almost around the clock. Couriers drive to the customer’s location, pick up the wheels and bring them back to the shop, where employees work overnight to perform the repair and return the wheels as soon as possible.
The seven-acre parcel features the old dealership building, which Barbera plans to renovate and use as the business’ front office. The old service area now houses Elite’s specialized equipment.
Barbera aims to grow his business as the area grows. Elite on Wheels Albany serves customers from Kingston to Utica to Bennington, Vermont. Barbera hopes to eventually extend the service area west all the way to Buffalo.
The type of wheels the shop can service ranges from minivans to Rolls Royce. Elite on Wheels can repair and refurbish complicated multipart wheels as well as basic-burger wheels.
Barbera spent 10 years in management in the automotive industry. His business partners have a variety of backgrounds, but the niche business of wheel repair made sense to all of them. Dealerships often lack the equipment and know-how to perform a quality wheel restoration.
“We wanted to be a unique partner for dealerships,” Barbera said. “We help them help the customer.”
For more information, visit the company’s website eliteofalbany.com.