For 18-year old Brandt Riggs, his future path was easy to decide. All he had to do was look at his past.
“Ever since I can remember, I spent time working on cars with my grandpa, Eli Morris,” he said. “When I bought my old truck a few years ago, we spent a lot of time tinkering on it together.”
That tinkering led to a determination to have his own car repair shop one day. That day turned out to be December 26, 2019 when Riggs saw his chance to become The Car Doctor.
While his ultimate dream is to restore classic cars, Riggs decided to focus on two areas, detailing and repairs.
“My true love is restoring classic cars,” he said. “I got that from my grandpa too. We went to all kinds of car shows with his ’67 Impala. He had his heart set on replacing his Mercury Cougar XR7. He finally did and I loved working on it with him.”
To get his business off the ground, Riggs had to come up with a business plan. For that he credits his mom, Missy Morris.
The young entrepreneur said his mom always knew working with vehicles was what he wanted to do.
“She saw this building for rent on Facebook,” he said. “She told me here was my chance if I was serious about my intentions. My grandma, Shirley Morris, staked me, a day later mom helped me get the building and we were lining up customers.”
Once he decided that car detailing would be the best way to “get the door opened,” Riggs started using social media to get the word out.
“I needed to be able to pay the rent and other bills,” he said. “So I focused on detailing and small mechanics.”
Riggs’s business has expanded since he opened five months ago. While he does brake work, battery replacement, rotators, oil change, and other smaller repair jobs, he has completed some large engine work as well.
“I put a lifter in a 2012 Dodge hemi,” he said. “I’m going to be able to do even more work along those lines too.”
When he needs some advice on a job, Riggs doesn’t hesitate to call on the man to whom he attributes a lot of his knowledge.
“My teacher, Dana Hager, at Roane-Jackson Technical Center was the best mentor I could ever have,” he said. “I was able to take collision repair courses from him in my junior and senior year. I learned so many things. I just wish I could have taken classes at Vo-Tech all four years of high school.”
Riggs described Hager as a teacher who always guided him in the right directions.
“I’m not good at learning in a group situation,” he said. “I pick up things much quicker if I’m shown, not just told. Even though I’m graduating in June, I still call on Mr. Hager when I have a tough job. He’s always willing to teach me.”
Growing up, he also spent a lot of time with Mike Fields at J & M Auto where he said he learned a lot by watching and helping. Hands on knowledge means a lot to the young business owner.
“I did seriously consider going to college to get a degree in classic car restoration,” he stated. “But after talking to mom and Mr. Hager, and realizing the cost, I decided to go this direction. I’ll also take online classes.”
As The Car Doctor, Riggs has already seen some interesting vehicles come across his path.
“I’ve replaced a radiator in a VW Jetta,” he said. “And I’ve seen some pretty seriously messy vehicles come through to be detailed. But I don’t mind because I enjoy the challenge.”
And he’s learned some tricks to make the job more efficient. Tricks of the trade are something he also picked up from his Vo-Tech teacher.
“Mr. Hager always had some tips to make the job go better,” Riggs said. “And I try to do the same.”
With detailing, Riggs said that he used to try to vacuum and clean around all the seats. Now he removes everything so that he can thoroughly pressure wash, shampoo, and sanitize.
Every business hits some bumps in the road. For Riggs, it was COVID-19.
“Right before the virus hit, I was really picking up business,” he said. “Then I went down to three or four jobs a month. Now it’s starting to get busy again.”
The work is what Riggs loves. But he also enjoys meeting and talking to his clients.
“I’m not afraid of hard work and that work is paying off,” he said proudly. “And it’s a good sign when customers keep coming back and recommending others.”
The Car Doctor still has his eyes on his ultimate dream though.
“I really love trucks from 1967-1972,” he said. “And a ’69 Chevelle is something I’m going to have one day. I also plan on getting some property and building a garage so I can expand my business and hire some workers someday.”
Knowing Brandt Riggs, there’s no doubt these dreams will come true as well.
The Car Doctor is located on 119 Tow Away Road, Ripley, the same location as Red Barn Wrecker Service. For information about services and prices, call 304-531-2766.