You’ve likely heard of the Atlanta-based shop KoruWorks, or at the very least, spotted the brand’s signage at some point. If you’re at all familiar with those tiny upstarts YouTube and Instagram, then you’ve likely seen the front of their shop used as a background for some level of tire spinning action. What’s now fully established and serves as a destination site for drift enthusiasts making their way to the ATL began as a big empty space for a group of friends and DIYers that needed a place to meet up and wrench.
A little over a decade ago, drift builds and related activity in Atlanta were increasing in popularity with an expanding community, but the drift performance shop-to-end user ratio was completely out of whack. Sure, parts were being hunted down online just like any other region, but KoruWorks owner Tyler Clayton felt there was a dire need for a local resource, an established workshop. Noticing the lack of local support for the enthusiast circle he was fully immersed in, Tyler opened his own shop, though it wasn’t exactly a business to begin with.
Gregg Bucell, who takes care of the shop’s sales and marketing needs while simultaneously handling managerial and track spotting duties for the KoruWorks race team, has been along for the ride since the very beginning. Longtime friends, he and Tyler would eventually lay out a plan of attack to convert their automotive obsession into a career path. “At the time the shop opened (2012), it was more of a community garage for Team Rowdy,” Gregg says. “We would all come and wrench on our cars alongside Tyler. Just a bunch of young drift nerds learning how to business. Tyler was always big into style, and I don’t think he’s ever owned a set of crappy wheels or knock off parts. He helped me build my first drift car.”
Having a garage and a group of friends to wrench with provided the sort of atmosphere that Tyler had envisioned but it was more of a hang out than a business, and he aimed to change that. His annoyance at the lack of available aero and vital drift suspension parts from shops in the region, as well as those JDM bits and pieces that everyone loves but struggles to track down could be rectified if the shop became, well, a “shop.”
In 2015, Tyler reached out to Gregg, who was living and working in Florida at the time, and asked if he’d make his way back to Atlanta to help make the business idea a reality. “At the time, there were no signs, no lifts, no technicians to work on cars … not even a desk for me to work at,” Gregg recalls. “I had to go to Walmart and buy a fold-out table to work on.” The two began brainstorming and planning, and soon after, they brought in trusted friends to fill out the staff, which now consists of six people, including Tyler and Gregg.
Those days of a bare garage area lacking the essentials are long gone. Step foot inside the shop currently and you’re immediately hit with vibrant colors and custom touches that intertwine with all the tools, fabrication equipment, spare parts, and inventory that you’d expect from a motorsports shop. This one, however, houses some unique details, like a Daihatsu Mira van parked inside, which was converted into a private office space. Just beyond that, a sim rig is set up within a lounge area accompanied by the shop’s nobori flags, apparel, and various diecast finds and memorabilia.
KoruWorks’ services include complete engine builds, involved race prep, and fabrication, all while maintaining an active status in Formula Drift. It’s not a massive shop and much of what they do involves elevated levels of attention to detail. That means the number of complete builds they take on is relatively conservative, with Gregg estimating around 10 customer builds per year, with the next available opening being April of 2023. Their resume is packed with competitive Formula Drift cars as well as builds for local celebs like Killer Mike and Rutledge Wood.
That local connection has become synonymous with Atlanta, not only in the automotive world, but with music, movies, and more. KoruWorks’ shop design included the help of local artist Ryan Coleman, who thrives in working with vibrant colors. Throw in the wild livery of the drift cars on hand and there’s an energy that emanates from KoruWorks that feels worlds apart from the cluttered workshops with a broken Coke machine and greasy fold out chairs you’ve become accustomed to.
You really can’t have a sufficient business and a full-time hang out—something has got to give. I asked Gregg if the business and customer fulfillment part of all this has taken away from the original “clubhouse” feel that once occupied the space. “One thing that we NEVER want to lose from the shop is the sense of inclusion. Everyone is welcome. Our showroom is more like a hipster’s basement with arcade games, popcorn machine, and RedBull promotional fridge stuff with Capri Sun. We want people to come up to the shop on their day off just to hang out. However, we had to say goodbye to allowing our friends to work on their cars themselves … but that hasn’t changed or pushed them away from bringing their cars to us. We have extremely talented technicians, and our friends are all very accepting of paying for their work.”
When KoruWorks began its life as an actual business, there were but a handful of shops in North America that catered to drift enthusiasts. Ordering and stocking parts relies heavily on the sources keeping up with the pace of demand, as well as dealing with potential shipping issues (ever hear of that global pandemic that delayed life as we know it?), and while they saw profit from their full-service shop, Tyler and Gregg agreed that an additional revenue stream was needed to back up their FD team efforts. Gregg adds, “about three years ago we introduced KoruWorks hard parts. Simple dress up bits that are offered in multiple colors and styles. The idea being that we don’t need a support line, and there are less areas of failure. The smaller sized products allow us to stock more without taking up a ton of room.”
That entrepreneurial spirit will continue into yet another area of focus for KoruWorks which aims at doing away with cheap plastic driving tools in the rapidly growing simulator market. Gregg adds, “our current FD drivers come from a simulator background before ever drifting, and we believe that market is going to explode even more. We want to offer consumers similar parts designed and built by professional race car drivers.”
Beyond a business and a career path, Tyler Clayton was able to shake things up for Atlanta’s dedicated drift circle and found a way to make a living while remaining hands-on with what he loves. The bonus of all that being that he’s brought some good friends along for the ride. It’s a dream scenario that many fantasize about but very few will ever take the risk to make it all happen. If you ever find yourself in the ATL, drop by KoruWorks for a visit.