DASMULE in Baja
Joe and Dana, the owners of MULE Expedition Outfitters, built a Vanagon Syncro Westfalia in their garage over a two year period of weekends and evenings in 2010-2011. The build garnered some attention in the #vanlife world at the time for some of the innovative design ideas that went into the build and out of that, “DASMULE” was created, both the van and the company.
In our early years, our company under the name DASMULE was Vanagon centric as we blogged about our trip and experiences living in the van for 3 months in Baja and then returning home to manufacture and sell our signature Vanagon Rock Sliders. In sharing our travel experiences however, we quickly realized friends, family and customers were hungry for build information, stories of our experiences, and advice on how to build their own vehicles for similar adventures. Out of a desire to share that knowledge, DASMULE evolved into a new company called MULE Expedition Outfitters that could expand its offerings beyond the Vanagon world.
In April 2014, Dana and Joe opened their first small retail store (about 1000SF!) in Issaquah, WA in an office building behind the XXX Root Beer Drive In. We figured with car shows there every weekend we might get some exposure at least, and, honestly, we could afford the space. Joe kept his paying job at the time and Dana and their young puppy, Trakkar, opened the store. We were retail only then and had a small but respectable assortment of recovery gear, lighting, air compressors, and jerry cans in stock. We hosted meetups once a month on a variety of topics to build community around our tiny shop and share our journey with other like minded folks.
By the Fall of 2014, we saw the need to offer installation of the products we offered. The challenge was, we couldn’t afford to hire anyone. So, we reached out to our buddy Jon Ament who had a background in the racecar industry and had since been doing custom fab metal work and was building our Vanagon Rock Sliders for us already anyways. The conversation went that we couldn’t pay him, but we’d give him 1/3 ownership in the company and if we ever did make a profit, he’d get a third of it! Jon was on board. We rented a shop with enough space for a vehicle hoist and a few tools just across the street from our store, and Jon went to work. Our very first install was an Old Man Emu suspension on a Jeep XJ. We were stoked.
You might say the rest is history but there has been a lot of evolution since that time too. We grew quickly and Joe quit his job in early 2015 and came onboard full time working with Jon in the shop. We were up to 2 install jobs a day! Later that year, we had the opportunity to move into a larger retail space beside the install shop and we gathered friends and the #mulefam around us on a Sunday afternoon and moved the whole store. We also hired our first retail sales help and were starting to be able to offer much more expertise and information to our customers. Around this time, we also had to finally move away from the broken cell phone we were using as the company phone and step into a true landline phone system with a couple lines instead of one. Sometimes it’s the little things that make you feel like you’re growing up!
As we continued to grow, our focus was to hire people from the overland and offroad worlds who had a similar passion for adventure and vehicles and also both personal and professional experience. We were adamant that our team be comprised of people who cared about our customers and would assist them with their builds as a friend more than a salesperson. That focus worked for us and as we added more people to our team, those guys attracted similar folks. Somewhere around this time the hashtag #mulefam was coined and it stuck. We do see our team and our customers as a family. Cheesy sounding, but true.
In 2018 we added Alu-Cab, Norweld and Four Wheel Campers to our product lineup and that required larger facilities once again. We moved our retail store to a larger showroom and the old store became another install bay for our shop. By 2019, we were offered the Oregon territory for Four Wheel Campers and pushed ourselves to make it happen. Opening another store in Tualatin was a huge undertaking for our still small business but, with the agreement of our Issaquah team, we took the plunge. Those guys were going to have to cover the Issaquah operation on their own as Dana and Joe set about starting a second location 3 hours drive to the south. They’ve killed it. And the Tualatin store is well on its way since opening in November of 2019.
MULE is proud to have a high caliber team of employees who care about each other and our customers. We’re here to help you with the build that’s right for you, and we’ve seen enough in the industry and real-world experience to make recommendations on where you’re going to get the most for your money. We all work hard for our earnings, and we know you do too. We only sell and install brands whose quality and customer service we trust and respect so you know when you do business with us you are getting reliable products.
Our showrooms are set up to be an experience. We believe in letting you see the products in real life instead of just looking at a web page. In fact, we have several open box displays in each of our stores so you can touch and feel what you’ve already been researching online. So, as always, there is a standing invitation to you to stop by and see us. Both our Issaquah, WA and Tualatin, OR locations are ready to help.