Hi-Performance History

September 12, 2019
This month, Hi-Performance Distributors is honored to be recognized by Canadian Business and Maclean’s magazine as #18 of the 2019 Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies. With this recognition of our recent growth, it seems a perfect time to reflect on how the company began and look to where we are going.

The First 25

Hi-Performance began with Mike Tapp and a whole lot of fun. Originally interested in Radio Controlled planes, Mike found his greater enjoyment on the ground with a Tamiya Holiday buggy. Mike enjoyed attending races so much that he built an off-road track on his parents’ acreage in Aldergrove in 1986. There he welcomed racers to join him, partake in food from a concession trailer, and purchase cars brought in from a local Washington, USA hobby store. He turned the track over to a local club but continued his hobby involvement by selling R/C cars at Beamriders in Langley and by racing on an increasingly high level. His great skill afforded him the opportunity to attend the 1989 Worlds race in Australia. After returning from Australia, he began to work with Apollo Hobbies owners Victor and Collin Wong. Looking to shift from retail to distribution, Mike began to make connections at the 1990 Hobby Show in Chicago. The first line which he brought in was Robinson Racing Products. These small, American made, pinions and spur gears were originally stored in Mike’s old car kit boxes. The line is still carried by Hi-Performance. Likewise, Mike’s first customer, RC Pit Stop, continues its relationship with Hi-Performance to this day!

In 1991 Mike and the Wongs made their distribution dream official by incorporating Hi-Performance, Dist., Inc. (HDI). Starting out from a 200 square foot office with a small product line they struggled to make a name for themselves in an industry where they were not yet known. Though sales were initially slow, Mike believed in the future potential of his venture. He obtained a small loan and a silent partner so he could buy out the Wongs in 1992. That year he brought in more product lines including Associated and moved his stock from the small office to a double wide portable. The following year saw greater growth as Hi-Performance added Mike’s new retail store, One Stop Hobbies, to its customer base as well as more product lines, including MIP and Pro-Line, to its inventory. The company sustained steady growth in the mid-90s moving out of the portable and adding more lines, chief among them Traxxas! Traxxas was initially added on a trial basis, in 1996, but all expectations were exceeded. They became, and continue to be, Hi-Performance’s biggest product line.

In 1998, Mike sold off the retail store, bought out his silent partner and chose to focus on Hi-Performance. The years that followed saw the company grow in size as it was able to offer more and more product lines. With this greater supply came employees, equipment, and increasing warehouse space. In 2005, Mike, along with two partners, secured acreage to build warehouses on Gloucester Ave in the industrial section of Langley. There Hi-Performance could utilize a 9200 square foot space to service its customers. This space continued to hold Hi-Performance as it weathered a changing hobby industry. In 2011, Mike (along with a partner) briefly dabbled again with running a race track for R/C cars. Though the track did not last long, it gave Mike the opportunity to reconnect to fellow R/C enthusiast Dan Schellenberg. It would be five more years that Mike cared for Hi-Performance, during which time he expanded the product line to include manufacturer direct items from overseas. In 2016, 25 years after he first incorporated the business, Mike handed over the reigns and sold Hi-Performance to Dan Schellenberg and Chris Mueller.

The New Guys

Dan Schellenberg has been an R/C guy since childhood. He grew up around hobbies with a dad who loves to fly R/C planes and older brothers who were into the cars. Like many kids, he got his first R/C car (a Kyosho) for Christmas. Ever inventive, the boys and their dad built a track in the backyard by gathering up snow truck sand left on the road after winter. As he improved, he would go out to races put on by the local club. This is where he first met Mike Tapp, a perennial face in the local R/C scene. Through the years, Dan enjoyed racing both Kyosho and Team Associated cars, but when he turned 16 and was able to drive a real car on the road he put down the remote. In the years that followed Dan proved to be astute in business. Even while in high school, he built a base of customers with his computer skills. He put these skills to use at local computer stores quickly becoming the manager of one retail computer store. It was easy to see, however, that this young man had a vision of his own. In 2007, with his wife Alex and their young son Mason beside him, Dan began his own computer business Prism PC. This business would grow (as would Dan’s family as he welcomed daughter Claire), and merge with valuable partners, to become Stratum Systems as it is known today. In 2011, Dan’s dad told him about the track which Mike had opened. This prompted him to get back into racing and formed a business connection as Stratum began to service Hi-Performance’s computer needs. Dan became increasingly involved in racing. He continues to enjoy working on his technique, connecting to the community, and the opportunities to travel (often with his family) to races near and far.

Chris Mueller was born in Germany where he lived until immigrating to Canada, with his parents, as a teenager. Though he has fond memories of playing with R/C cars in Germany he, like Dan, left them behind when he got his driver’s license in Canada. With an intelligent eye for detail, and an ever-present willingness to apply himself, Chris enjoyed an impressive 25-year career in aviation as an aircraft maintenance engineer. This field of work provided him with a great many opportunities for education, experience in management of people and resources, and travel. Being on location for work is also how he met his wife of 12 years, Shelly. Together they have a son, Cole, and it is through their son that Chris found his way back to R/C cars. Seeking an activity to bond over, away from a screen, Chris bought a crawler for him and Cole to play with together. He recalls nights coming home from work and rain or shine, squeezing in some time together before bed. He is sure the neighbors must have thought them crazy as they would wear reflective vests and attach flashlights to the vehicle just to ensure they could see it in the dark. It did not stop with the crawler, however. Chris quickly realized the addictive nature of hobbies and accumulated more and more vehicles, including a couple of Traxxas Slashes. He would take these, often with Cole, to races at Outlaw RC. Over time he took over the running of Outlaw and it is there that he and Dan connected.

The pair had initially met back when Dan was managing the computer store. Chris was a customer who was just learning to build his own machines, and Dan would stay long after hours helping him. While both moved on for a time, they enjoyed a familiar face at the track and soon found they were pitting near each other often. This frequent proximity helped them get to know each other more. Chris was retired from his years in aviation and Dan felt confident that his Stratum partners could run the day to day operations, so the two envisioned an opportunity to go into business together. They approached Mike early on, but his plans to retire were still years away so they considered opening a hobby store with an adjacent track. While they were in the initial stages of scoping out sites, they received a call from Mike. His health had declined and he recognized that it was time to sell the business. Though the business had slowed down in recent years, the core potential was still evident. In order to jumpstart the venture, with the newly purchased assets of Hi-Performance Distributors, Chris and Dan boarded a plane for the Las Vegas NRHSA convention to meet with vendors face to face only a day after signing the papers.

The first year after their takeover saw many changes including a new website and inventory program that would help their dealers – and their dealers’ customers – see what products are available. Further they brought on a full new (and growing) staff and made trips around the country visiting their existing clientele while meeting with potential new customers. This prompted such exponential growth that by their first anniversary, Hi-Performance expanded their space into the adjacent warehouse. As the hobby industry continued to change around them, Dan and Chris grew Hi-Performance by embracing technology and paying attention to what their customers valued. With this insight they could expand lines that were in demand and make space by removing those that were not. Customers grew confident that Hi-Performance could meet all their needs and it increasingly became their first choice for orders. By their second anniversary, it was time for another big change! Chris recalls being in London, having just left the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, when Dan told him that he had signed papers and they were moving to the 23,000+ square foot warehouse on nearby 56th Avenue where they now are.

Now and Coming

Both Chris and Dan see their first two years with Hi-Performance as just trying to keep up with the growth. They are incredibly grateful for their customers, their employees, their families, and their partnership. Each of these components has led them to the success they are currently experiencing, and they are honored to be an example of Canadian business at its finest. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, the pair are looking beyond expansion and seeking to grow the depth of their company. They have begun to consider what they value as a company and what their mission is so that they can grow, but with direction. One thing which has become clear is Hi-Performance’s corporate purpose as “REAL people enabling Canadians to have fun!” This purpose statement will be at the core of every future decision as they contemplate how to innovate warehouse operations, business technique, product lines, and customer relations. With this in mind, and an eye to the future, they have been consulting with business experts, upgraded the size of their warehouse truck, and increased their customer communication through flyers and social media.

Dan, Chris, and the entire Hi-Performance team look forward to realizing their goal of 15,000,000 moments of fun by the year 2030!

Your IP Address is: 3.231.229.89
wabusiness template