“Like father, like son” is certainly a phrase you could use to describe Jeff Shelton and Brandon Shelton.
The father and son are in different industries, but both just keep on winning Best of the Best awards given by readers of The Advertiser-Gleam. Jeff won Best Body Shop for the 8th straight year. Brandon won Best Lawn Care Service for the 6th straight year.
A complete list of our winners can be found in the second section of today's newspaper.
The Shelton shops are side-by-side down Highway 79-S. And even though they are in very different businesses, the elder Shelton is a mentor to the younger.
Jeff stresses customer service and making the customer happy. He’s also stressed that Brandon do the same.
“Dad is an inspiration,” Brandon said. “His father, Papa Bobby, was in business 58 years.”
Papa Bobby passed in 2009.
“My dad started the business 60 years ago this year,” Jeff said. “I started working for dad when I was still in high school. I’ve been working there 43 years. I didn’t go to college. I knew I was going to get married and work at the body shop whether I’d gone to college or not.”
He and the folks at the shop try very hard to please their customers. Jeff said one bad experience and the Internet being what it is, someone can post something negative about you “and people will believe it.”
Covid has thrown them curveballs they never expected. Parts, especially for unusual or older model cars, are having supply chain problems just like everything else.
“We’ve had customers with cars sitting for 6-8-9-10 months, waiting on parts,” Jeff said. “We’ve got one car that all it needs is an airbag module. We’re hearing November.”
Jeff went the extra mile to buy some loaner cars in an effort to help out his longtime customers.
Prior to the pandemic, on a bad day, the longest they waited for just about any part was 4 or 5 days, he said.
“Most of our customers understand,” Jeff said. “We try to go the extra mile to help them.”
At the same time parts became harder to get, Jeff also saw an uptick in business due to some other body shops, particularly those at some of the dealerships, closing.
“We have a lot of business,” Jeff said. “We are thankful and blessed.”
He has slowed down just a little bit personally. Tyler Hand, who previously worked in service at Hembree, now works for Jeff. He has taken some of the day-to-day pressures of running a business off Jeff.
Jeff’s daughter Stephanie Kreger is also an invaluable team member, not just for Shelton’s Body Shop, but also for Shelton’s Lawn Care.
She works for both businesses, handling phone calls, billing, running cars and more.
Shelton’s Lawn Care had humble beginnings. Brandon was a college student and he had a discussion over lunch at the Huddle House with his dad about credit and how he could build credit.
“He said, ‘You need to buy something and make payments on it,’” Brandon said. Brandon decided he’d buy a lawnmower and start mowing a few yards for extra money.
“There was no beautiful business model,” Brandon said. One yard then led to more than 300 today. On top of having the lawn care business, Brandon – a former Wildcat quarterback and college baseball player – coaches and teaches in the Guntersville School System.
“I have a project manager and great employees or I couldn’t do what I do,” Brandon said. “I enjoy teaching and coaching and didn’t want to get away from that and state insurance sure is nice.”
There are 17 employees on 7 different crews doing landscaping and lawn care for Shelton’s.
“I never imagined it would get this big,” Brandon said. “Shocked is the only word I can use. This all started with a 20-year-old kid wanting to earn some extra spending money. I was working with Wendy Walker on the city horticulture crew at the time. I’d water flowers from 4 a.m. until noon, then mow grass in the afternoons and on weekends.”
On top of two careers essentially, Brandon got his master’s degree in administration in 2017.
“That gave me a few gray hairs,” he said.
He said people often ask him why he didn’t end up working at the body shop too.
“Dad never pushed me in that direction,” Brandon said. “He knew I was more interested in sports.”
Like his dad, Brandon feels blessed. He still runs a mower in the summers between coaching.
“Our biggest asset is our employees,” Brandon said. “They are what keep this going. They keep us on track.”
Brandon is also a partner in another business, Turf Management Solutions, with Mark Wisner. That business services more than 500 properties from Hampton Cove to Sardis.
“Mark does a fantastic job with it,” Brandon said.
For both Brandon and Jeff, the relationships they’ve made along the path of business are the most important things.
“I tell Brandon all the time that being in business is not just about the almighty dollar,” Jeff said. “Always do exactly what you tell customers you will do and if there is a problem, take care of it immediately. You make a lifelong friend and a lifelong customer.”