Van Builder Stories: AW Vanworks

group of guys behind a van and warehouse

Van Builder Stories: AW Vanworks

Buy or Sell Campers

Buy or Sell Campers

20 January 2023

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📍 Youngstown, Ohio, USA 🌐 📷 @aw_vanworks_llc Building vans since: 2020

Three Brothers. One Dream. Unlimited Possibilities.

Meet the brains behind the builds, with the first of our ‘Builders Stories’ showcasing the work and inspiration behind AW Vanworks! Based in Ohio, AW Vanworks is keeping it in the family with three brothers – Alex, Adam, and Andrew – driving the business, with dad as business advisor. Their shared passion for vans, construction, and awesome adventures led to the birth of AW Vanworks, where they design and build custom campervan conversions. We spoke to the guys to find out more about their story – where they’ve come from, what they love about vanlife, and where they’re headed.

So AW Vanworks, tell us where it all began...

The three of us brothers grew up with first-hand experience in the construction industry thanks to the family construction business run by our father, Nelson Witmer. We learned practical skills ranging from office work and business strategy to all aspects of the construction process. Then, for about a decade, we went our separate ways – moving all across the country with Alex in California, Andrew in Michigan, and Adam in Nashville. I guess you could say that we flew the nest, and gained broader life experiences…but it always was with the idea of starting our own business together. And everything kept leading us back to vanlife.

Alex – a guide in the outdoor world of climbing and backpacking – is constantly surrounded by the vanlife community, Andrew has the travel bug and will never pass up the opportunity to go new places, and Adam and his wife first rented a converted van for their honeymoon – falling in love with the community and endless possibilities. They are now proud owners of one of AW Vanworks’ first babies – a custom AW Vanworks converted Promaster! AW Vanworks is a natural melding of our skills, passions, and experiences.

Transitioning from more traditional cabinetry and furniture projects to vans was a natural progression into our passions. We’ve been converting vans for 2 years now, and it feels right. We believe we form an ideal team to create custom adventure vehicles that are both practical and beautiful. We don’t just build vans, we live this lifestyle ourselves and are committed to building a better van life for our customers.

Who's who at AW Vanworks?

Andrew is Director of Operations and Carpentry. He’s a craftsman, woodworking mastermind, and perfectionist. Andrew is the inspiration behind AW Vanworks. He worked with a cabinet maker in Michigan, learning, and perfecting his craft for 4 years, and then returned to Ohio to work to open a woodshop of his own. With AW Vanworks, Andrew can focus on what inspires him and makes him happy.

Alex is Director of Sales and Marketing. A professional outdoorsman, Alex lived and worked in California for 4 years as an outdoor leadership guide in Yosemite. He has grown up learning construction and business knowledge working at Witmer’s Inc. He’s the guy who loves to solve the difficult and unique problems in our conversions. He’s also the go-to guy for marketing, sales, and client relations. You could say that Alex is Andrew’s right-hand man for all things van building.

Adam is Director of Finance and Administration. Adam is all business. He attended business school at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He was born to be our numbers guy! Yes… Adam loves a good excel spreadsheet! He is in charge of business operations, finances, and administration. He has also planned out two of his own complete van conversions. He’s become our de facto research and development expert. Adam keeps us up to date on all the latest conversion trends and tech.

Tell us about your build style - what can clients expect from you?

Designer/builder – Andrew – is a pro when it comes to modern/contemporary design. Our clients choose us because they love clean lines and simple but functional designs. We specialize in maximizing space, while still scoring high on style.

This is our most popular layout for the Ram Promaster. It maximizes storage and still feels big and open.

This layout is our favorite. We designed it for Adam and his wife Liz originally, and it’s fast becoming our most popular layout/design for our favorite build base: Ram Promasters.

So Ram Promasters are your favorite build base? Tell us why.

We like the Ram Promaster because it’s a more affordable van than the Mercedes Sprinter. It’s cheaper to fix if something goes wrong mechanically, and it’s a wider/boxier van so it feels more spacious and allows more flexibility in designing a layout.

Do you take built-to-order commissions?

Yes, we do! We currently have 2 design layouts that we offer, one designed for the Ram Promaster and one designed for the Ford Transit. We have yet to build out a Mercedes Sprinter but will do so eventually and offer that as well. We offer each of these as a base package but are open to any design choices that a customer wants – each AW Vanworks conversion is unique. This blended approach optimizes affordability and maximizes individuality.

Help us end the eternal debate: which is the best shower format, and why? No shower...outside shower...pop-up shower...fixed shower...

Outside shower all the way. No debate.

Let's cut the crap, give us your top toilet recommendation, and tell us why!

We use Nature’s Head composting toilets in all of our vans and they work great! We haven’t seen a better option on the market yet.

How do you live your best vanlife?

Climbing, hiking, exploring cool new cities and breweries, and just seeing where life on the road takes us!

Where’s the best vanlife destination?

Hard to choose! We recently went on a trip to the Pacific Northwest – we hit Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. There are so many cool van spots out there. Adam and Liz’s personal favorite vanlife spot is Buena Vista, Colorado. It’s an awesome Colorado mountain town.

Are there any particular ride-or-die brands you insist on for your builds?

Goal Zero for all things electrical, Flatline Van Co for roof racks/external van upgrades, Dometic for fridges and powered coolers, and Nature’s Head for toilets.

What's one van item that you couldn't live without on your journeys? and why?

Leveling blocks! I don’t think most people think about these when hitting the road, but it’s almost impossible to find a good level spot to park for the night when out in the wilderness. Leveling blocks come in clutch.

What's your message to people just starting or thinking about getting into vanlife?

Go to our website and give us a call! Designing and converting a van is a complex process, but we’ll make it straightforward.

Why go pro, rather than fly solo on a conversion?

There is always more work to do than expected when taking on a van conversion. It is a BIG project! But we’re an established team and we already have all of the details ironed out. We know we will do everything the right way to eliminate many of the problems that may occur due to build errors. We will also be sure to finish the project. Many DIYers burn out on the last stages of the build and just decide to live with an unfinished van… It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let's connect...

📍 Youngstown, Ohio, USA 🌐 📷 @aw_vanworks_llc Building vans since: 2020

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