Sal's House of Tint

Internationally recognized window tinter calls San Marcos home

Salvador Hurtado stepped up to a 2012 Nissan Sentra on Sept. 22 with a few razor blades and a spray bottle in hand. When he stepped away 60 minutes later, he did so as one of the top 10 window tinters in the world.

Hurtado, who co-owns Sal's House of Tint with Michelle Aaron, took home the honor at the 2012 Window Film Conference and Tint-Off in Louisville, Ky., where window tinters from as far away as Jamaica competed for recognition.

Aaron said the honor has not gone unnoticed in San Marcos.

"People call now and say, 'Is this where the world-famous Sal works?'" she said.

"The world-famous Sal" began working with cars when he was a teenager living in the Rio Grande Valley. Hurtado was balancing his schoolwork with a job at a tire shop when a local business owner found him in an advanced mathematics class.

"The owner of the tint shop came in and found me covered in tire black and doing calculus, and he was like, 'Dude, you gotta get out of here,'" Hurtado said.

Hurtado took a job at the shop and has been tinting ever since.

There is a good chance residents of San Marcos have seen Hurtado's work, even if they don't realize it. Hurtado tinted the Greater San Marcos Partnership building on Wonder World Drive as well as Dick's Classic Garage on Stagecoach Road.

The business offers a range of services including automotive, residential and commercial tinting, front-end paint protection and pinstriping.

Every window film that Sal's House of Tint carries provides 99 percent protection from UV rays. Aaron said the films are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as effective protection from harmful rays.

In addition to the health benefits of blocking ultra-violet rays, residential tinting typically reduces cooling costs by about 30 percent, Aaron said.

Hurtado and Aaron have cleared a place on one of the garage's walls for the award recognizing his top 10 finish. The wall is a patchwork of certificates, diplomas and artwork, but absent from the collection is the Grammy that Hurtado won in 2011. Hurtado calls it his "lucky Grammy" but said he is in no hurry to buy the actual trophy.

Hurtado was working as a tour manager for Grupo Fantasma when the members of the Latin rock group first realized the guy mixing their sound each night had solid guitar skills. The band and crew would hang out in their hotel room after shows, and Hurtado says it was always just a matter of time before someone began strumming something.

"They invited me on a last whim like, 'Hey, can you lay down some guitar?' It was good enough to put on the record, and the record took off from there," Hurtado said.

Hurtado's guitar work can be heard on the song "Hijo" off the band's album "El Existential."

"I could order a trophy, but it's a $2,500 investment," Hurtado said. "Eventually, if I want it, I'll hang it up somewhere, but not until I have an extra $2,500 for a gold-plated piece of plastic."

Hurtado and Aaron have tinted more than 1,300 vehicles and buildings since the business began two years ago, charging about $180 for an average four-door vehicle. Hurtado said the jobs are not always safe and are rarely easy—the back glass of 2008 and 2009 Corvettes present unique challenges because of the shape of the glass—but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've got a reputation for being able to do the impossible," he said. "We go do bids on jobs where three companies have come from as far as Georgetown to do an estimate, and they show up, see the job and immediately say 'No.' I show up and see the job and [am] like, 'We can do it but we charge.'"

Hurtado said he takes pride in getting a tinting job done right the first time.

"I like to work on a car once, and that's usually the way it is," he said. "I work on it once, it leaves, and that's it. We won't see it till the guy wrecks it. I don't let anything go until I think it's like if it were my car. That's just kind of how I do it."

Sal's House of Tint, 2605 S. I-35, Ste. 200, San Marcos, 757-8716, www.salshouseoftint.com

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