Family businesses have traditionally been the backbone of the American economy. Although working with close relatives can have its challenges, when it is done properly, it can be a wonderful thing.
One local family business that has lasted over two decades is Rudy-N-Sons Superior Automotive, owned by brothers Kevin and Stephon Scott. The brothers grew up in Eastover. Sons of an auto mechanic, it seems like destiny that they would open an auto repair shop.
“We were brought up in an automotive background,” Kevin says.
Older brother Stephon Scott graduated from Lower Richland High School in 1984. He worked for Dick Dyer Automotive’s Paint & Body Shop for four years before moving to Anchor Continental to work as a printer operator.
Kevin Scott graduated from Lower Richland in 1989. He moved to New Jersey, where he got a job as a truck driver. Living in New Jersey was a culture shock.
“People in the area were a bunch of lazy folks,” Kevin recalled. “They go to work, and that's all they would do. They didn't want to wash their cars, they didn't want change their oil – they didn't do any of that. I guess from my Southern background, I kind of took that on for them. That's when I started going around around the community detailing cars and changing oil after I got off work.”
Kevin realized that this could become a big business, especially in the South where nobody else was doing it. Since Stephon had an automotive background, he shared the idea with him.
“His idea was to have a mobile wash and lube,” Stephon recalled.
The brothers agreed to become partners in the automotive business. Since their family owned property in the Eastover area, they decided to build an automotive shop on the property as their base of operation.
“We wanted to bring mechanical service to the country. People coming from the country had to go to Columbia to have their cars worked on. There was no professional automotive shop,” said Shephon.
The brothers built the shop themselves and financed it out of their own pockets – with a little help from friends and family.
“We had the kind of family that sees you trying to do something and they decide to pitch in and do whatever they could to help,” Kevin recalled.
It took the brothers over a year to complete the facility. As it neared completion, Kevin moved his family back to South Carolina. The brothers were fully-committed.
In addition to building their facility, the brothers also designed their mobile equipment.
“We needed a 150-gallon water tank, and the only place we could find it was in Greenville,” Kevin said. “We were down to our last bit of money, and we ran out of gas on I-26 bringing it home.”
Kevin was very detailed on how everything in the business should look and work. He insisted that their van serve as a mobile billboard for the business.
“He made sure it was painted bright yellow and had every service we did listed on it,” Stephon recalled.
Rudy-N-Sons officially launched in 1996. With two families to support, the brothers needed it to be an immediate success.
“We were coming from flat broke,” Kevin said.
On its first day of operation, Kevin drove the van to a Hott Spot gas station.
“My mother gave me money that morning to get to Columbia,” Kevin recalled.
As people were checking out the van, a woman approached and told Stephon to follow her to the South Carolina Supreme Court building.
“I said ‘no problem.’ We didn’t have anywhere else to go. We got there around 10 a.m., and didn’t leave until the end of the day. Everybody in the Supreme Court Building got their car washed, and they asked us to come back every other week. So that was our start,” Kevin recalled.
Rudy-N-Sons reputation for courteous, professional services spread quickly. Stephon quit his job at Anchor Continental and joined the company full-time. With the help of supporters such as local business consultant Gary Washington, they were able to secure service contracts with many local businesses and organizations.
“We were his first client,” Kevin recalled. “He secured a couple of big contracts for us.”
The increase in business created a dilemma. Most of their contracts were in the Columbia area, and their facility was located in Eastover. In 2006, the brothers decided to move the business to Beltline Boulevard in Columbia to be closer to their clients. They hired their sister, Althea, to run the office.
Rudy-N-Sons is a full-scale automotive shop.
“We focus on preventative maintenance, such as oil changes, brakes, struts, shocks, tires, tune-ups. We have gotten away from hardcore automotive like rebuilding engines and transmissions. When it comes to that stuff, we still do remove and replace,” Stephon says.
One of their major specialties is repairing vehicles for disabled individuals. Rudy-N-Sons is the only minority-owned firm in the region that specializes in fixing BraunAbility Wheelchair Vans. BraunAbility is the world’s leading manufacturer of disability vans equipped with mobility ramps. Rudy-N-Sons is licensed and certified to work on these vehicles.
When asked why they have been successful, Stephon says “Because of our honesty. We give customers what they need. We give you the service, we give you the prices, and we are honest with you. We communicate and we break things down so you understand what we're doing to your car.”
“I think the honesty part of it has helped us a lot, along with our labor rate,” added Kevin. “We did research on that. We went out and checked a lot of independent shops and dealers to find out what their rates were. We are 25% - 30% lower than any independent shop and 40% lower than dealers. But we still provide the same service, if not better.”
Rudy-N-Sons is located at 3828 West Beltline Boulevard in Columbia. It is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. They can be reached by calling (803) 708-5979.