Life in the Fast Lane

May 10th, 2017 by Katherine Coig

What do legendary NASCAR drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch have in common with the window film industry?

Rob Ruska, owner of Sun Stoppers Charlotte in North Carolina, who’s been tinting the brothers’ cars and homes since the early 2000s.

Kurt Busch (L), NASCAR driver, and Rob Ruska (R), owner of Sun Stoppers Charlotte in North Carolina

“I’ve become friends with some of the drivers like Kurt and Kyle Busch,” he says. “I went out west with them to the desert once, and I remember sitting on a four wheeler next to these guys thinking ‘How did I get here?’”

It’s an enviable memory, even for those unfamiliar with NASCAR. Experiences like that didn’t come easy to Ruska; he’s had his fair share of mishaps over the course of his career in the industry, which began when he was just 13 years old in Upstate New York.

“I was 13 when I first got my hands on tint. It was 1993, and my older brother had just gotten his license. We wanted to tint his car and my dad’s, so we went to the auto store and bought a roll of film,” Ruska says. “My dad’s car was the first car I ever tinted. I still have it.” He may still have the car, but he’s quick to point out that it’s undergone an updated tint installation.

“I remember sitting on a four wheeler next to these guys thinking ‘How did I get here?’”

From there, Ruska knew he wanted to make a career out of tinting, and he took every opportunity he could to improve his work. “I just liked what the tint could do to a car. It totally changed the look of it. I was terrible at it at the time; I didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalls. “It didn’t come easy, but I always wanted to do it better. It was trial and error, but I eventually got the hang of it.”

After nailing down an installation technique, Ruska tried his luck at finding a business that would give him a shot. “I bugged this one stereo place for weeks, and they finally hired me,” he says. “I actually turned out to be better than their tinter at the time.”

He eventually moved to Charlotte, a NASCAR hub, with a friend who had an opportunity in racing. This led Ruska to a shop that was looking for ways to make their automotive tint business more successful. “I came from a pretty successful shop in New York, and they wanted my advice on how to up their tint sales,” Ruska explains. “But they wouldn’t listen to me, and they almost made me hate tinting. It just really burned me out.” He adds that the company specialized in installing tear-off decals for race cars, so tinting wasn’t exactly its forte. He competes against this company still to this day.

Enter Mike Burke, owner of Sun Stoppers—a company with nine shops throughout North Carolina that Burke started with just one location in Charlotte.

Ruska found Burke online, and from there, Ruska opened Burke’s first Sun Stoppers location. “I sent him an email, and a month later, I had this store,” Ruska explains. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t that easy.

“When I started out here, I wasn’t free and clear of a non-compete … I ended up getting sued, all within two months of opening,” he says. To help with the costs, he started delivering pizzas at night in the Sun Stoppers van, showcasing the company logo.

“It was really tough, but I love what I do. Knowing that Mike believed in me and gave me the chance to have my own store—it’s been an amazing opportunity, and one awesome ride.”

This article is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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  1. Outstanding story of how determination and desire will take you on an amazing ride. Congratulations on a job well done, but, I bet it is not over, keep up the good work!

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