5 Minutes with Nick Griot of Griot’s Garage
Nick Griot has been around cool cars all of his life, so it’s no surprise that, as the son of Griot’s Garage founder (and car care product legend) Richard Griot, he decided to go in a totally different direction when it came time for him to choose a career. It is surprising, however, that his dad actually encouraged him to look for a career outside the family business.
“My dad discouraged me from working for him,” Griot remembers. “He said ‘You need to find out what you want to do on your own.’”
Griot pursued a career in commercial real estate (all while serving as the “resident car guy” at his office, of course). Five years in, though, Griot realized that, despite his (and his father’s) best attempts to fight it, he was being pulled back in the family’s car care product empire. “Eventually I realized that Griot’s Garage business is what I know, and it’s truly what I love to do, so I told my dad I wanted to come back…and here we are,” Griot said.
Currently Griot works alongside his father and one of his four siblings at Griot’s Garage doing product development. However, over the past few years, he’s done everything from drive the company truck to car shows to manage Griot’s own events. “I have no permanent title, really, because it’s my goal to know and learn every aspect of the business,” Griot said. “But, the products are the most important thing to me, because that’s what everyone interacts with.”
We took a few minutes to talk to Griot about common car care misconceptions, what it’s like to have your father as your boss and his “interesting” first car.
Goodguys Gazette: Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: How the heck do you actually pronounce your last name, Griot?
Nick Griot: I’ve heard so many pronunciations over my lifetime and some of them are just ridiculous! People add letters, they add sounds. For the record, ‘Griot’ is pronounced ‘gr-ee-oh.’ But I’ve gotten it all, so I’m never offended when someone butchers the name.
GG: You’ve been around the car care business all your life. Has that made you a clean freak by nature?
Nick Griot: That depends…if you ask my wife, she will tell you that I keep my car and her car very clean. However, she’d probably also tell you that I can’t find a hamper! That’s kind of the tradeoff; I know where my skills are best applied. I view cleaning my car as an escape, my therapeutic time, but I definitely have other organizational gaps in my life!
GG: Since you’re the expert, tell us the one thing people usually get wrong when it comes to their car care regimen?
Nick Griot: The biggest thing people undervalue is a quality towel. Most people don’t realize that you can do a ton of damage to your paint by choosing the wrong towel. Your paint is probably the most sensitive system on your car. An inexpensive microfiber towel will probably do more harm than good for your car.
I tell people that it’s kind of like skin care. You don’t want to exfoliate your skin every day, and any time you introduce a harsh towel to your car’s paint, it’s the equivalent of scrubbing your skin with a loofa every day. Even if you pair a bad towel with a high-quality detailing spray, you’re doing more harm than good.
GG: If you’re not at a work event, where would we find you on a Sunday?
Nick Griot: From March to October, I’d say I have less than five weekends that I’m not spending doing something auto-related. But that’s fine, because it’s what I love to do. But if I’m not at an event, I’m probably brewing beer with my friends. We grow our own hops, and one of my friends is a local brewmaster. We hang out in the garage and make beer, and wash our cars while the beer is boiling.
GG: Your father is your boss. Is it hard to separate the work relationship from your family relationship?
Nick Griot: My dad is my good friend, and he is definitely still my dad before anything else. I think we’re both so passionate about the car culture, so that helps. The stuff we sell is fun stuff, and I think if we can’t remember that, we’re not doing our job. My dad is the best example of that. He can always step back and enjoy what we’re doing. We generally agree on all the business points, but sometimes we disagree on the marketing of the company. We’re a catalog company in the digital age, so we have different views on how to spread our wings to take advantage of all the new digital marketing options. But at the end of the day, we’re family and no business dispute is ever going to change that.
GG: One of the benefits of having a dad who’s a car guy is that you had access to all of his cool cars. I’m sure you had an amazing first car, right?
Nick Griot: Let’s say I had an interesting first car. It was a 1979 Mercedes Benz 300TD station wagon. It was a non-turbo diesel and weighed about 6,000 lbs.! My dad knew me really well so he gave me a slow tank of a car. My dad knew that driving that thing would keep me out of trouble. However, my siblings and I each restored a car with our dad. We restored a 1971 Camaro together over five years. So, technically, I count that as my first car. I still own the Camaro, and I recently had a 1963 Lincoln Continental built that debuted last spring.
GG: Your dad has an impressive collection of cars. Do you collect anything?
Nick Griot: I started to collect whiskies when I was driving the Griot’s truck to shows. I travel around the United States and ask what the local craft distillers are. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt for good whisky. I have a much stronger appreciation for bourbon and the American spirit industries.
GG: Of all the car shows and events you attend each year, which one is your favorite?
Nick Griot: I love the Rolex Reunion in Monterey, [California]. That’s actually where my dad started the company. He was there prospecting and putting fliers on people’s windshields. He started Griot’s when I was three years old and I’ve been going to the Rolex Reunion my entire life. It combines everything I love, and there are cars from every time period, and every country that makes cars. You’ve got cars from 1915-1980 racing at the same time. Griot’s booth is usually right in the middle of the race track, so I can stand on top of our trailer and see cars from the 1920s racing around the track. It’s a whole action-packed week. It’s everything you need for anybody who loves being embedded in the car culture.
GG: What’s next for you and Griot’s Garage?
Nick Griot: We have a couple larger projects that are product-related that are going to be launching in 2019. We manufacture and develop all of our chemicals in-house and make them in the U.S. so that lets us continually refine them. We’re expanding our show presence as well, so we’ll be doing even more national events in 2019.
But mainly, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We are a family-owned company, with the second generation – myself – already in the building, so we have a long-term plan to continue to grow.