Weekly Local Biography

  Richard (Richy) Wilson

Richard “Call me Richy, I’m a different kind of Richard,” is a young man who smiles a lot and happily says, “I’m living my dream.” Originally from Connecticut on the east coast of America, he describes himself as “actually I’m a California sort of guy.” If laid-back and happy is California style, then that describes Richy, who is the MD of Richco Powder Coating in Chiang Mai.

His father was a diver in the US Navy, and like most military families, moving around was the name of the game, and he was five when they first moved to sunny California.

School was not Richy’s favourite way of spending his days as a young boy. He had dreams of being in the construction business, fuelled by the fact that his grandfather had an earth-moving and construction operation. “I worked in my vacations for my grandfather since I was eight years old!” I asked him if he drove D 9 Caterpillar tractors and he laughed, saying, “D 11’s are more fun! My heart really wasn’t into school.”

One thing his heart was into was motorcycles, in fact the whole family were enthusiasts. Dirt bikes were all the rage back then, and Richy remembers his first race bike - a Yamaha YZ 80 that he used to ride in the dirt races when he was 15 years old. However, he first threw a leg over a motorcycle when he was only 6, so he was well experienced by the time of his first competition.

When he left school he was 18 years old, he went straight to Granddad’s and signed on. There he ran ‘dozers and then an asphalt plant. After a while he began to get itchy feet and branched out, initially as a carpenter and then into concrete restoration, correcting the corrosion that occurs if water gets to the reinforcing rods (re-bar as it is known in the trade).

By the time he was 22, he was working for the Union Pacific Railroad. Not selling railway tickets, but part of the gang building new railroad tracks between Kansas and Colorado. “I was definitely doing hard work,” said Richy.

He worked for Union Pacific for the next five years, but then the company decided there was no more work and Richy was laid off. With his philosophy that “When one (door of) opportunity closes, another opens. You just have to look for it,” it was not long before that next door opened.

He went back to California where the Morris and Knudsen conglomerate were looking for railroad contractors. He signed on. “I was getting three times the salary I was getting at Union Pacific!” The “California sort of guy” was doing fine.

While Richy was developing muscles building railroads, his father was developing ties in Asia, working in aviation flight safety. He was in China and suggested that Richy take some time off and come over and visit. This he did, and whilst China was fine, his parents said that they were coming over to Thailand, which they did each month for a few days. As Richy had never been in Thailand either, and his father told him that he had a Harley-Davidson stored in Chiang Mai, that was all he needed. Over he came!

Like so many of us, his life was changed forever from that exact minute. “From the minute I stepped off the plane and met the friendly people.” He met the people who had the Harley shop in Chiang Mai (Poo and Tu), whom he now calls his Thai “family” and decided to stay for one month. That month stretched into three, and by then Richy knew what he wanted to do. “I went back to America and sold everything, getting ready to come to Thailand.”

He did not just come back over here with no idea of his direction. “Everyone is looking for a niche. I’m a hands-on sort of guy, and I just wanted to do something.” He had found out that there was no ‘high-end’ powder coating done here, only industrial coatings (such as they now use on re-bar). He had a friend who had a powder coating shop in America so he spent some time in the US with his buddy, learning the game and researching the types of powder coatings that would work in Thailand. “I bought a powder coating gun and brought it over.”

The big move was in 2003, and in that time Richy and Richco Powder Coating has already made its mark on the motorcycling scene in this country, receiving work from as far off as Phuket, as well as Pattaya, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There hardly seems to be a Harley-Davidson owner that doesn’t want some part of his bike powder coated, leaving that almost indestructible finish to frames, engines, transmission covers and the like. (Richy very proudly showed me photographs of some of the show bikes he has powder coated.)

Despite the fact that he seems to have already made a big impact, he does not want to grow too quickly. “I just want to do high quality work,” says Richy. “If I won’t put it on my bike, it’s not going out the door.”

His hobbies begin with riding Harleys, and being a “California sort of guy”, music rates high too, playing drums and guitar. But just being with friends makes him happy.

He does have a ‘plan’ for the next decade. “I want to work for the next 10 years, sell my company and live happily ever after!” said Richy with that shy grin. Part of the future planning also includes scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia, and a visit to New Zealand.

But for Richy, “living the dream” includes enjoying life with his family. “Riding along on my Harley with my Dad next to me on his. Just how good is that?”

I reckon that would be perfect, Richy, but then, I’m an old biker too!