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Formanek wraps vehicles in his custom 'skinz'

Photos by Rachelle Klemme Jim Formanek shows the printer he uses for Pro Skinz and Design.

Wadena police cars have a striking new design, and so do Russ Davis Wholesale trucks, the M State Impalas, and a number of other local commercial and government vehicles.

The man behind the new designs rolling around town is Jim Formanek - restaurant owner, former WDC art teacher and owner of a vehicle wrap and graphics business, Pro Skinz and Design.

Formanek has run Pro Skinz since June 2010, but he has also run Formanek Designs since the late 1980s and was a WDC high school art teacher from 1994 until he took over The Uptown restaurant, which he still owns.

"The previous owner is a great friend of mine, and so I worked for him. I did all his menus, did his logos, those types of things, and I also cooked for him," Formanek said.

He said that he first got into the business of "skinz" - vehicle wraps - when he had a party bus for the Uptown and got another company in another town to do a full vehicle wrap with his design. He was unhappy with the work and eventually looked into the equipment and learned how to do it on his own.

He uses a 60-inch printer, which he said is similar to household printers but uses automotive ink. At the time of the interview, an image for Russ Davis - one of Formanek's largest accounts - was being printed.

After an image is printed, it is left to dry and sit for a few days, then run through a laminator that makes it ready for a car.

"So if it scuffs, with this material, basically you just take a heat gun or a torch to it and it will take that scuff mark right out of it," he said.

Besides vehicles, Formanek said he can wrap pencils, walls, sidewalks, toilets and other objects. He wrapped his own refrigerator and was putting a skin on a small model truck.

"There isn't anybody within 50 miles of Wadena that really does it for a full time job," he said.

He said that most people in the vehicle wrap business have a background in computers, but not art and design, and his own background in art gives him an advantage.

Formanek said he had a passion for art since he was a kid. He would spend his summer days watching a local artist where he grew up in Iowa.

"I was always building something, using my hands, and I just want to continue to do that," he said.

He said that he always has to have something to do -- when he is done at the restaurant, he returns home and works on the art business.

He said he is thankful for businesses and people in the area that have been supportive of his work.

Formanek can be contacted at (218) 639-1691.