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Muscle cars are Doug Springer’s passion. A registered nurse who sells medical devices from Augusta, he admits he has owned almost every make and model of hot rod made in the last 30 years. Those vintage beauties are often in need of restoration, but that only drives his passion further.

“I grew up in Oklahoma, where there were old, rust-free cars everywhere,” he says. “From the time I was in the seventh grade, my best friend and I talked and loved and lived cars. I got my first Mustang, and the lights required a little work. I did it myself, learned as much as I could, and one thing led to another.” That “other” is a lifetime of buying, restoring and selling cars out of his garage, a passion he and his boyhood friend William Leimbach, now in Douglasville, continue to share. It also led Springer into small business ownership.

Four cars parked outside warehouse“We were both buying and restoring and flipping cars individually, and we needed to find better value on the jobs we couldn’t do at home, like painting,” he says. So when he saw an auto repair shop in Hephzibah for sale, he decided to stop and talk to the owner. “I knew him. He was ready to sell.” One thing led to another, Springer says, and he made an offer to purchase the business, which came with a 10,000 square foot building and 48 self-storage units on a three-acre lot. He developed his business plan and took it to the bank to get a loan. That led him to Rick McMurtrey, area director of the Augusta office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“Doug is a sharp guy who had a good business plan, excellent credit and the 20 percent down payment required by most lending institutions, but they would not approve the loan because he lacked commercial automotive experience,” says McMurtrey. “He needed some creative thinking about how to get into the business.” McMurtrey suggested Springer approach the owner with a two-year lease purchase agreement that would give Creative Approach Restores Bank’s Interest in Hephzibah Automotive Shop him some business experience before re-applying for the loan. He worked with Springer on the terms of the proposed agreement, which Springer took to the property owner and his attorney to finalize.

Springer opened Muscles, Rods and Motors—MRM—on June 1, 2015, under the new lease agreement. “Our job was to change the bank’s perception,” he says. Then the previous owner, who had agreed to consult on the business, passed away two weeks after Springer took the building.  “Everything we had planned went away.” They brought in new business, continued the former owner’s race support and began doing the restoration work. Nine months later, with the business experiencing positive growth, Springer began discussing the loan with a new bank McMurtrey suggested worked well with small businesses. Sales have been good.

“We did $180,000 in sales the first 12 months and will increase that another 50 percent this year. I went from one to four employees in a year. This year, we’ll add 70 percent more restoration work to the mix. And because of our positive growth, we closed on the business loan in July,” says Springer. While continuing their careers in the medical field, Springer and his wife Lori do enjoy their new small businesses.

“Lori has always wanted to run a business as well, so we’ve split the work on the storage units. She’s the IT person, finding and setting up the gate software. The units were in terrible disarray and people hadn’t paid their fees in years. She has streamlined our Pit Stop Self Storage business and cleaned it up.” McMurtrey and Springer continue to discuss his new venture.

“Doug is considering what to do with unused space at the front of the building. He and his wife haven’t settled on anything yet, however; I will not be surprised to see them add another business concept in the next 12-18 months,” says McMurtrey. “Entrepreneurs are always looking at ways to make things better, start new businesses and produce more income. From my interaction with Doug, he certainly fits that mold.”