- License Plate Heaven, a family business in Fraser, Michigan, repurposes expired license plates into everything from state-shaped maps, purses and personalized signs to magnets and airplanes.
- The license plates come from junkyards, garages and rental-car lots.
- The company grossed $32,000 in its first year.
FRASER, Michigan — A Michigan-based company is showing that the coolest feature on a car can be its license plate.
Linda Ringstad, owner of License Plate Heaven, has made a business out of repurposing or "upcycling" expired license plates into everything from state-shaped maps, purses and personalized signs to magnets and airplanes.
"License plates get new life here in License Plate Heaven," Ringstad told Edmunds in a telephone interview.
The business is popular with celebrities, including Kid Rock, according to media reports.
Founded with the help of her octogenarian parents, Fred and Donna Kostrick, the trio began scouring junkyards, garages and rental-car lots, collecting license plates for 15 years.
Fred Kostrick filled a semi tractor-trailer with them, getting 50,000 plates from the United States, another 50,000 from Mexico and more from across the world. He used to cut up the plates into individual letters and make personalized gifts for friends and family. Because they would always be the hit of the party, Ringstad said, they decided to launch their hobby into a business in 2011. Not only do they make custom orders, but they supply many gift shops in resort towns across the country with their art.
The Kostricks are on their annual pilgrimage this week to the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association International Convention, this time in Reno, Nevada, to find more, Ringstad explained.
"What it comes down to is that we're users, not collectors, so we need more," she said. They've put a dent into that 50,000 U.S. plate collection.
"It's probably down to 30,000 because we're busy," she said.
In the company's first year, it grossed $32,000.
"Our customers love the idea that we're upcycling, but I think the real draw is the pieces we make are so cool," she said. "Everyone's got an old plate in their garage, so they like to see them take on new life."
Edmunds said: Kitsch or art? Depends on your personal taste.