Two men open mechanic business without fearing recession |

Two men open mechanic business without fearing recession

Randy Armstrong, 51, left, works on a 2004 Kia Sorento SUV while Jim Fagg, 61, looks over the engine of a Ford L9000. The two men co-own RJ Service Center and work on vehicles including personal trucks and industrial equipment. They said they don't worry about owning a small business in the midst of a national recession because of the niche they fill in the local automotive repair market.
Collin Smith

Off a dirt and gravel portion of Rose Street, the entrepreneurial spirit of two men lives on, undeterred by the ongoing national recession.

Randy Armstrong, 51, and Jim Fagg, 61, teamed up for the third of their three businesses together to open RJ Service Center in February.

They said they service nearly any vehicle, as long as it’s a half-ton pickup or bigger, but Armstrong said they’re known to take on different kinds of work, too, such as the four-wheeler that sat in their shop Monday morning.

Until recently, the two men worked together for Fagg’s outfitter service, Dusty Trails Outfitters, operating in the Black Mountain area.

Then, Armstrong was laid off from Connell Resources after working for about two years as a maintenance supervisor. Determined to not take a job beneath his skill set, he asked Fagg to partner on a business venture.

With the mechanic shop, outfitter service and a freelance hay business, the two try to stay working.

“I figured, why be laid off,” Armstrong said. “We’ll just start our own business. We just decided this was going to be a good thing, and it turned out to be that.”

It wasn’t worth trying to get a job with another equipment operator because no one would pay him what he’s worth, he added.

“You get to a certain age, and you become skilled at what you do,” he said. “But, these days, skilled labor may be hard to come by, but nobody wants to pay for it. They want to pay you entry-level wages. We decided we were done with that.”

It’s been steady business since they unlocked their doors, Armstrong said, adding “old-school word of mouth” has done well to promote the two “old-school mechanics.”

Neither believes the current economy is reason for too much fear, even if RJ Service is a roughly month-old startup.

“Like Randy says, ‘Everybody’s got to drive,'” Fagg said.

Armstrong also is confident their shop fills a niche in the community that other businesses can’t meet, for one reason or another.

“These other places around town, the dealers are so busy, they can’t get to the oil changes and the maintenance work because they’ve got plenty of doggone jobs waiting already,” Armstrong said.

RJ Service focuses on small repairs and maintenance service. The business will take anyone’s vehicle and also specializes in fleet maintenance for bigger companies that have a stable of trucks.

When a customer brings his or her vehicle into the shop, whether it’s for a large company or a person off the street, Armstrong and Fagg go through the entire machine, from the battery to the tires to changing the oil filter.

If they find something wrong, they call the customer and let he or she know what’s going on. With major issues – such as rebuilding a transmission – they can recommend other places in town.

The two men pride themselves on being able to work on any and all vehicles that make their way into their shop.

“We can do just about anything,” Fagg said. “Horse trailers, truck trailers, farm equipment, industrial equipment. We don’t do cars, and that’s because there are a lot of other people around town that already do that.”

Staying inside their role seems to have begun paying off, Armstrong added.

“We’ve found a big interest in the agricultural equipment, people asking if we can take a look at their tractors and stuff before spring,” he said. “And mobile homes. There’s nowhere around here for people to take their mobile homes. We do that, too.”

With a seemingly unmet market, a recession is far from the everyday world Armstrong and Fagg describe.

“I’ve talked to so many people around town that are in the mechanic business : and they say this is probably one of the most recession-proof businesses to be in,” Armstrong said. “We’re repairing stuff, not replacing it, and not costing the customers a lot of money for any of it.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or

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