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November 15, 2013

‘Choppers’ in Moxham: CMT network series films episode at GapVax headquarters

JOHNSTOWN — The sprawling warehouse at GapVax headquarters along Central Avenue in the city’s Moxham neighborhood erupted with applause as Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers and Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper” fame rolled in on a custom motorcycle, specially designed for the local business.

Teutul and a Country Music Television film crew chose the industrial vacuum manufacturer – which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – as a featured business on the new season of their reality TV show “Orange County Choppers.” The episode is set to air on CMT on Dec. 28.

GapVax owner Gary Poborsky said he met with Teutul while staying in a New York City hotel near the reality star’s shop.

During Poborsky’s stay, he decided to poke around the custom garage.

“I originally got talking to him about finishing a trike bike that I started for my son 14 years ago,” he said. “One thing led to another and we exchanged business cards.

“They said that they had two more slots available for next year’s production. ... Being that it was our 25th year, I thought we should complete and build (a bike) for our 25-year anniversary – to represent GapVax.”

Poborsky said some elements of the bike were fitted in the spirit of his business. The wheels, specifically, were built to resemble cyclones found in the filtration systems of GapVax trucks. When the finished product was rolled out at a lunch-time gathering of GapVax employees and Poborsky’s family, he said he was floored by the craftsmanship.

“The quality speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable piece of equipment.”

While at Teutul’s New York shop, Poborsky said he and the mustachioed “Senior” compared business stories and found they shared a lot in common.

Although Orange County Choppers was founded in 1999, with the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper” debuting in 2003, Teutul has been fabricating metal and building bikes since the 1970s.

1977 was the year Poborsky and his wife, Rose, founded GAP Pollution and Environmental Control, a service company that became involved in cleanup efforts following the 1977 Johnstown Flood. GapVax started in 1989, building vacuum trucks and equipment for that service company.

In much the same way Teutul forged his own path, feeling he could do better work than his various welding and fabricating industry employers, Poborsky said he felt GAP P.E.C. should make its own way.

“The quality and performance of the equipment we were purchasing, we weren’t very happy with,” he said. “We thought we could build a better mousetrap.”

GapVax now sells throughout the U.S., Canada and other countries. Poborsky said the business has swelled from a 15-man operation to employ roughly 100. GAP P.E.C. started out with only four people. Now, there are about 150 in four different divisions.

Mike Blair, who said he met Teutul over a decade ago – when he was working out of a small, 10 square-foot tent in Daytona, Fla., – has worked for GapVax for 16 years. He said he’d bounced around the industry “here, there and everywhere.”

When he started with GapVax, there were about 20 employees.

“It’s definitely been interesting. We’re definitely getting bigger, just adding onto the buildings and getting more employees in,” he said. “I think this (TV episode) will give us a boost. Not a whole lot of people know about this industry. Before I started here, I never knew what a vacuum truck was.”

Poborsky said it’s the employees that drive his business, not the product or reality TV fame.

“I’m one cog in the wheel,” he said. “It’s about the people who have been here for a long time. It’s not about me, it’s about the people.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/JustinDennis.

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