Every fisherman has a story or two. Steve Corbin can certainly weave some interesting tales of fishing and trailering mishaps, some his own and some he's heard from others along the way.
Born and bred in Hanahan, the popular business owner is well-known as the local go-to guy to perform the impossible hitch installment. He's been doing them since high school.
Corbin's Hitch Shop was passed down to him in 1995. His dad Roy started the business in 1969. He later passed it on to Steve, who now runs the show. The seven employees who work at the shop are a tight-knit group.
Corbin occasionally finds time to go fishing and spends most of his spare time with his family and friends, relaxing on a back creek at his father's house in Edisto.
He escapes the daily grind by pounding and burning works of art out of steel. The results are intense, one-of-a-kind depictions of the Ravenel Bridge, works of art that Corbin says symbolize the love he feels for his daughters Amy and Erin. After a four-year battle with Niemann-Pick Disease, a rare metabolic disorder, Erin passed away in 2000 at the age of 12. Corbin donates the money he makes from his artwork to charity to help other families affected by the disorder.
His daughters are his inspiration and keep him going in a complicated world. With a "can-do" attitude and gentle smile, the family man sat down with Tideline magazine to talk about family, fishing and tricks to keep your trailer in good shape.
"The biggest problems that we run into are suspension-related. Those are the components that have a tendency to corrode and we don't pay attention to because it's still rolling and before you know it a relieve spring is broken, a hanger bracket's broken."
•Maintenance is key. "Corrosion is a big issue for boat trailers. Trying to keep corrosive paint or some type of coating on the components that corrode is a critical part of it. The rolling aspects, the bearings, they all have to be maintained. We educate customers about how brake systems work, how hubs work, what to do, how to do it. We offer that simply to help them do some of the maintenance in their driveway. Grab a tire, rock the tire, if it moves a direction it's not supposed to move, you've got an issue "“ you've got a problem and you don't want to make that trip. The coupling point "“ where we couple to the hitch obviously since we do hitches we make that connection happen at the vehicle."
•When hitching your trailer don't overlook the obvious before hitting the road. "You've got to get a procedure in mind. You've got to say, "OK, I've backed up correctly. I'm coupled up. I've got the correct-sized ball. I've latched. I've got my safety or security device (a lock of some kind). My safety chains are crossed and they're not dragging the road or they are hooked up in an appropriate way. My lights are plugged in and everything is working correctly.' Do a general inspection. Make sure lugs aren't falling off and rotted away on a boat trailer. Look for any residue, any grease residue at the hubs. Those are things that keep us all safe when we trailer. To me it comes down to paying attention and being aware."
•Wash your trailer. "Any way you can displace the obvious corrosion that is salt water, if we're talking about a saltwater application trailer. Imagine backing your trailer into the water, and your wheels are under the water because you're launching and retrieving your boat, the cavity of that hub assembly "” that's full of grease that your bearings reside in and get you to and from. If water can get in, it will [and] will find a place to reside."
Tell me a little history about Corbin's Hitch Shop. What exactly do you do?
My father (a master welder/pipefitter) took over the back half of the house to put on hitches, and my mother took over the front part of the house for a ceramic shop. This was back before there were hitches in a box, if you will, readily available from manufacturers.
We would hang the hitches on the front porch "¦ which is kind of an interesting way to display your inventory, I think. It was really practical and suitable.
Dad progressed with the hitch work, fabricating hitches, and then we picked up the Draw-Tite line and were their largest dealer in South Carolina. We started doing hitch installations back then and have continued that until now. (Then) we built a line of utility trailers, customized trailers. The towing and hitch aspects and the trailers all went hand-in-hand, and at that point we realized that manufacturing wasn't practical, so we started just servicing trailers and becoming advocates of preventative maintenance.
We're here to do pretty much everything when it comes to keeping the trailering public going the way they need to be going (horse trailers, boat trailers, U-Dumps, utility trailers used by contractors, huge sailboat trailers).
What do you like best about your job?
Part of the business I enjoy is troubleshooting and correcting problems and possibly preventing issues that customers may have with suspension failures, lighting failures and what-have-you. My brother David works with me on the repair work and is a big part of the success of the business. All of my co-workers are like family.
What's most important to you in your business?
I like to help people any way we can. And we do a lot of that here. I don't compromise the quality of the service that we provide for money. I will correct problems even if they're not mine to make sure the customer is satisfied. We're all about education. I talk people "out of" more than I talk them "into."
We're serious about what we do; We emphasize customer service. We don't just say it; we actually live it. Don't tell me "it can't be done; it's not going to fit; or it's been wrecked," because I'll figure out how to make that hitch fit that car. I'm not going to compromise the safety and integrity of the car, but I will make it fit the car.
This customer didn't come to us for us to say we can't do it. That's not my attitude.
Tell us about how you cut and burn metal to make cool Cooper River bridge sculptures, and why you donate the money to charity.
I don't really consider myself an artist. I'm a hobbyist. But I do have an eye, and I think that is a blessing from my mother who was very gifted.
I do some pretty cool stuff. Years ago I did all kinds of fish stuff. But I'm very, very abstract. I don't want it to look like a fish "” you can go to Walmart and buy a plastic one that looks like a fish. Mine's going to be shaped like a fish, but it's got to be wild. It's got to talk to you; it's got to say something.
My co-worker Dave Davis helps me with the bridges. I donate the proceeds to The National Neimann-Pick Disease Foundation, which exists to support the families of children with the Neimann-Pick disease, which my daughter Erin passed away from in 2000. She was 12. It's a very rare lipid storage disease "” a cholesterol-related disease. Erin was one of two kids in the state that had the disease when she passed.
What got you started making this art?
It's a lot of fun. And it's therapy for me because it gets me away from the craziness that this business can become. I view the Ravenel (Bridge) as an icon. From wherever you see it, it looks different. I use the different shapes, the different sizes and it's a different perspective. When the light hits it, it changes colors, so I put heat on the steel and the steel changes colors. I just like to bring that color out.
Steel is cool. Steel is real cool.
How long does it take you to make one?
The average one takes about 12 hours from cutting and drilling and bashing it to the finish, which includes the rods "” the wire if you will. In this case they're aluminum welding rods.
Best fish tale?
Oh Lord, you're not going to believe this one. I'm going to have a witness here to verify this. (Some friends and I) were fishing in the Cooper River, just above Nucor along the power lines.
I had an old Penn open-face rod and reel that I'd bought for $20 from a woman walking down the street. The line was all tied together on it. The end-eye was missing the insert. I had that line out, had a 2-ounce sinker on there. The tide was hauling butt so the lines were going the wrong way.
I had another Shimano out, and all of a sudden I mishandled the Penn and it went over the side. Gone "” in 60 feet of water "” there's no way we're ever going to find it. So I said, "Oh, well. It's gone. It only cost me 20 bucks. It's no big deal."
So we went to leave and I reeled my other line up, and I had hooked that Penn rod in the end of the eye "” the last eye "” and pulled that thing back to the boat!
We left that spot, probably went another 200 yards out in the river to another spot to fish. Same thing. All a sudden I knocked the Shimano into the water. I tried to get it back. I took the Penn out and put a treble hook and a big weight on it.
"We're gonna get that one back," the guys said.
I said, "Hey, I've done one, I'm not gonna get the other one."
I hooked it in the handle pulled that one back up.
Didn't catch a fish all day, but got two of my rods and reels back! And that's probably my best fishing story because it's the truth, and it had nothing to do with catching a fish.
Reach Shannon Brigham at 958-7393 or email@example.com.