PSA: Lady Hump is no longer affiliated with the defunct HAZZARD COUNTY EVENTS which put this event on between 2012-2014. For further information on Lady Hump supported true grassroots / corporate free events and campouts, follow @Lady_Hump on IG. Thank you!
I've know Steffan from Zombie Performance for quite some time now but in fact I didn't even run a set of his bars till about a year ago (believe it or not). Our friendship has been one of a mutual love and involvement in the current "chopper" scene as much as it can be described as such under the Biltwell / Chop Cult manifestation (and sure, Yes, there have been a LOT of other influences in that scope; forums, magazines, builders, shops, people, the chopper elite, etc. etc. But I'm talking about the modern day scene and it can best be summed up by looking at what Biltwell has done in and around the Southern California areas in the last decade. Think Slab City Riots and El Diablo Runs for a perfect "what do you mean?" response.) Steffans been a part(y) of Escape To Hazzard County and contributed to the Hazzard County Raffle from the very beginning. This year is no different. He's already donated several sets of bars to the raffle and will be again putting together this years custom trophies, so I decided it was about time I gave him a proper introduction in the form of a ZOMBIE PERFORMANCE Interview.... so I'd like you to meet the man behind Zombie Performance, Steffan Ihrcke.
1.) Tell me a little about the "original" zombie performance? How old were you when you started, what were you doing before this? Did you repair lawnmowers or just chain saws? What was business like?
I've been a small engine mechanic since i was 14yrs old. Originally I wanted to have my own small engine shop until I started getting into 2 stroke engine porting. I was building a lot of custom chainsaws for local loggers and a few race saws for people around the world. That's where the "performance" in Zombie Performance came in. The name was Zombie Performance 2 Stroke Engines. At the time I was still working a fulltime job repairing equipment and the engine work was in the evenings. now the name is Zombie Performance Fabrication but Chop Cult and everyone else has just made it Zombie Performance.
2.) When did ZP change from Chain Saws to Handel bars? Was there any product in between these?
The business just kind of fell into the handlebar market. I had sold some personal stuff to get a bender. mostly because I wanted to build my own bars. I couldnt really afford to buy new bars at the time and knew how to make them. I just needed the tools. I had made my first set of bars before I had the bender out of some old thinwall stainless. the tube was off some old medical table someone had thrown away. I put bends in the tube by heating it with a torch. they are super ugly but i still have them hanging on the wall. once I got my bender I was making a new set of bars for my bike just about every week. I started selling the old ones on the chop cult classifieds. every set sold almost right away and in no time I was getting people asking me to build them bars. at the same time my day job was slowing down and the economy was taking a dump so the engine porting just about disappeared. I started working for a new repair shop and the owner there was more than supportive of my ideas of starting a business. more than he should have been if he had wanted me to stay around. lol. that was a great job and the owner was a great guy to work for but the market kept slowing in the winter time and I kept getting laid off. The whole time I was starting to get more and more orders for bars so eventually it was a natural transition to go fulltime with the business when I got laid off.
3.) How long did ZP run out of your house in Winston before you opened your new shop? What made you go from no rent to now having to rent a shop to run your business out of?
About 7yrs if you count the very beginning of tinkering with saws and equipment. I think 2009 or 2010 would be more official year/s for the business as we know it now. I ran the business out of the house as long as I could before I had no choice to move. I needed more space for equipment, inventory, materials, etc. I just always let the business build it self as naturally as possible. I never tried to force anything out of it. I wanted my business to be fun and represent me so I just did what I wanted with it and made the most of it.
4.) In just a few short examples describe the motorcycle scene in the town you live in?
The chopper/home builder scene is nonexistent here. theres alot of people that ride and the Harley crowd here is pretty big but my business has almost now showing in this town.
5.) You're pretty much the town "handlebar guy" but do you think they understand how worldwide your reach is? And in the same thought, has any local shop ever once called you for help on a bike build?
"the town"....? no. but there is a handful people that know about what i do and are really supportive. There really isn't any bike builders here but I can count on one hand the amount zp bars that are on bikes being ridden around here. 2 of them are my own bikes.
6.) If your business continues to grow how are you going to grow with it? New products planned?
I'm just going to let it grow into what ever it wants to become. ill help it along as needed. I'm mostly going to tailor it along so that I can keep my lead times of orders reasonable while trying to keep people happy with out sacrificing quality. I have some ideas for other products but I'm going to try and streamline the handlebars first. I want to get more bars stocked up so people don't have to wait as long for them. with almost 100 different designs and multiple sizing and additional options its a lot to try and keep everything in stock. I cycle some designs in an out to try and help keep the work load manageable.
7.) In a few words describe what the Cheap o chop off is all about... (and keep in mind I'm also interviewing David for FU and will cross promo each interview asap/before the cheap-o chop off)
The "Cheap-o Chop Off" is mine and Dave's attempt at getting some sort of scene going here. I see lots of people here that want to build a bike or hang out with like minded people but we are so spread out its almost been impossible to get everyone together. we had decided to try and get people to build cheap/small bikes with out spending any money of them just to thrash on them at the chop off. That part of the event has been lacking since the people that show up are usually from other parts of the state and usually ride their normal bikes in. It doesn't really matter to use. the whole thing is just a fun camp out. we go on rides through the hills, and just do stupid fun stuff the whole time.
8.) You take it on the road, vending at both Born Free and most recently at the Norcal Swap... are you planning any other major events?
its not a big part of my plans. I'm going to pick my events based on if I want to attend them or not. mostly just to see friends and customers. it usually just cost me time away from the shop filling orders.
9.) Tell me about your beer brewing hobby?
Its a hobby that I haven't had time for the last year or so. Its fun, tasty, and gets you drunk on the cheap. lol. its actually relaxing for me since it takes a whole day to make a batch. Now that I have an open garage at the house ill try and get brewing again.
10.) anything else you'd like to add?
I'm here doing what I love to do only because of everyones support. All of my customers, friends, and family are the reasons that I'm able to do all of this and I'm eternally grateful. I don't feel like I'm doing anything different from anyone else with the same tools or motivation. My customers are the ones that drive me to keep going and be creative with my stuff.