Tony Foy traveled the country for four years, working to rescue troubled stores for Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care. He spent time working in locations such as Atlanta, Miami and Seattle.
But when he arrived in Columbia earlier this year to help shore up the location at 6226 Bush River Road, he knew he had found a place to call home. Charmed by the smiling faces, beautiful places and warm weather of Columbia, he made arrangements to permanently run the center.
Coming from Toledo, Ohio, where jobs are harder to find, Foy said he thought that the Columbia area was a much nicer area to live and work.
“We were just a stone’s throw from Detroit. It is a whole different category of individuals there where the attitude is just down,” Foy said. “We like the area here in general. The people, the surroundings, the lake – it is just a much nicer area compared to what we were accustomed to.”
Since Foy and his wife, Liz, have been at the Columbia Cottman location, they have taken the store to the No. 4 spot in the chain of 70 locations nationwide – from a ranking of 38 – within six months. The no-nonsense attitude toward auto care is critical to the business’ success, they said.
“We stand behind everything we do and we make sure that the customer’s vehicle is taken care of properly,” Tony Foy said. “I am not here to push a sale on you. I am here to present what is wrong with your car and leave it up to the customer to decide what to do.”
Making Columbia a place where small businesses like this can thrive is critical to the community’s success, said Holt Chetwood, board chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
“Small businesses are the life-blood and backbone of a healthy community,” he said. “They are a source of giving; they pay taxes and allow opportunities for employees to support families.”
The Foys also have worked to build a sense of community, donating 300 T-shirts to the Dutch Fork High School football program to throw out at games – all with free oil changes screen-printed on them.
Liz Foy said that when she moved to the Midlands, she fell in love with the area and the sense of community.
“The people here, I love them. Everybody is so nice and it’s awesome,” she said.