Feature Story

Small Town Job For The Star

FAITH, NORTH CAROLINA- - What was once a dry cleaners in downtown Faith, Noth Carolina is now the townís link to racing celebrities. "Iíd always wanted this building," says Gary Hess, who bought it from his great-uncle and moved in 15 months ago. Hess paints helmets. Not just any helmets though.

A native of Faith, Hess went to Faith Elementary, Erwin Middle and East Rowan High School. He graduated and studied graphic design at Central Piedmont Community College. While working at a screen printing company, Hess worked on NASCAR memorabilia and got to know Jeff Gordonís stepfather, John Bickford.

Bickford passed some of Hessí helmet designs along to the NASCAR star. Gordon liked them, and Hess has been designing and painting his helmets since 1999. He has also done work for Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, and Casey Atwood among others.

When passersby look into the shop, they can see some of his work. Three helmets are displayed in the front, including the first helmet Hess ever painted. Race fans can buy replicas of such a helmet from Hess at the bargain price of $3,800.

Hess spends most of his day prepping helmets to be painted, and in his paint booth, creating his newest masterpiece. These race helmets, Hess says, are his canvas. Hessí most recent claim to fame is having designed the helmets for the U.S. Olympic Luge Team. His helmets made their live international television debut at the 2002 Olympic games.

Since he began painting helmets about five years ago, business has certainly picked up. His business has put a small North Carolina town on the racing map.

©2001 Salisbury Post - Jillian McCartney

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