Building on the PastPosted 9/18/2005
By Levy Joffrion
Mike Suddeth, the owner-manager of Suddeth's Automotive Service Inc. at 1410 N. Millwood Ave. in the downtown area of that city, says his business grew out of the service station his father started in 1971. So did his brother's business, Suddeth's Towing Service.
Suddeth - who this month is assuming the presidency of the Automotive Service Association of South Carolina, an ASA affiliate - says his father opened the service station (Richland Mall Exxon) in the Forest Acres area of Columbia. His father is Joe T. Suddeth. Mike was in high school when his father opened the family business. His father and mother ran the station, and both Mike and his brother, Tommy, worked there.
His brother opened Suddeth's Towing Service in 1982.
In the late 1980s, it became apparent that the station would have to close because of lease agreements and the oil company policy at that time. The service station was closed in the summer of 1990.
Mike says he wouldn't trade being in a family business for anything. It has its advantages and disadvantages, he says, but he thinks the good outweighs the bad. One drawback is that you don't always separate business from family, says Mike.
His business started with two employees. Today, it employs 10 people and has a 10,000-square-foot shop, 14 bays and eight lifts.
It offers a full range of vehicle service, preventative maintenance and repairs on most vehicle makes and models.
In addition to Mike, there are four experienced technicians, one part-time technician in training, a support team of two service advisers, an office manager and a porter.
Suddeth's Automotive Service repairs an average of 55 vehicles a week. Sales this past year totaled $1.2 million.
It is a AAA-approved shop, a member of the Better Business Bureau and the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
He also has served as a judge in the local and state high school Vocational Industrial Clubs of America contest. In addition, he is an honorary member of local Boy Scout Troop 91 and has held training for the auto mechanics merit badge.
Mike is a member of Carquest Tech-Net, ACDelco Total Service Support (TSS), WIS TV "Ask the Expert," and a Bottom Line Impact Group.
He is a graduate of Irmo High School in Columbia, S.C., and attended the University of South Carolina.
In addition to being the new president of ASA-South Carolina, Mike is the affiliate delegate to ASA national.
Mike also strongly believes in ASA. He has held local and state offices in ASA for many years. He was the state organization's secretary-treasurer for a long time. "You can't always place a dollar value on the benefits of belonging to ASA," says Mike, "but the benefits are definitely there."
He also feels he should leave the industry in better shape whenever it comes time for him to retire. "When you look back," says Mike, "many people worked very hard to give me and every other shop owner a solid foundation to build on, and it would be a shame not to build on that and pass it on. We need to thank them, and what better way than improving on their accomplishments."
Shop StatsName: Suddeth's Automotive Service
Location: 1410 N. Millwood Ave., Columbia, S.C.
No. of employees: 10
No. of years in business: 15
On what he likes best about his job: Everything! When I was the tech, I enjoyed turning wrenches. I became middle management and enjoyed dealing with the customers (still do). Now, being the owner, I have a completely different focus. I have to deal with all areas, but I love it!
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