Small-town Alabama company is growing from backyard roots to a large, giving-back company

Joe Richburg worked at an Opp dealership for 19 years.

In October 1986, he and his father, Troy Richburg, opened a lawn mower repair shop in a single roll-up garage in the backyard of Joe’s childhood home.

Joe continued to report to his job at the dealership during the day and every evening tended the line of people waiting for him and his father to fix their mowers in Opp.

In 1991, he and his father erected a 30′ x 70′ metal structure on property they bought just up the road. In 1992, JR’s Lawnmower Shop opened its first showroom and Joe left his job to pursue the business full-time.

“I love taking care of clients,” Joe said. “You can go anywhere and buy a lawn mower, even order it online, but you don’t get JR service. You won’t be able to call old JR, and you won’t get the answer, ‘Bring it in, we’ll take care of it.’”

It is the customer service that sets JR’s lawnmower shop apart.

While the company’s original purpose was solely to repair lawn mowers, “I quickly realized that I needed to expand by offering lawn and garden products and outdoor equipment and eventually realized the importance of having a full line of replacement parts lead,” Richburg said.

“Our store is stocked with the parts needed to repair and maintain the products we sell including lawn mowers, walk behind lawn equipment, golf carts, ATVs, UTVs and most outdoor exercise equipment.”

said Reichburg.

JR’s lawn mower shop now comprises five buildings and a fenced yard on over 10 hectares in Opp, including the main showroom/repair shop/covered area for lawn mowers, an office building, three warehouses and the fenced yard for its golf cart inventory. JR’s began selling, servicing and renting golf carts in 2000.

JR’s lawnmower shop in Opp has grown from a two-man backyard business to one employing 25 full-time and part-time workers. (Brandon Robbins / Retailer in Alabama)

“Me and my dad were there for several years,” says Joe, “but now we have 22 full-time employees and three part-time employees.”

Richburg is President of JR’s Lawnmower Shop. Kelli Richburg, Joe’s wife and co-owner of the company, is vice president and director of human resources. She takes care of accounts payable, payroll and insurance accounting.

Kelli, an Opp native who started working in the office of JR’s Lawnmower Shop 11 years ago, has been married to Joe for a decade. “It’s a pleasure to help his business and support his community activities,” she said.

In addition to selling and servicing lawnmowers, outdoor equipment, and golf carts, Richburg and Kelli’s father farm about 200 cattle. Joe is Director of Opp Farmers’ Cooperative Market and Cattlemen’s Association.

Joel Smith, a native of Opp, describes his friend as “a staunch pillar of his community. For Joe, his business isn’t just a career – it’s a passion – a passion for his employees, customers and community.”

Richburg serves on the boards of the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission and Opp Utilities. He is an investor and past President of the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce. JR’s Lawnmower Shop is a member of the Andalucia and Evergreen Chambers of Commerce.

“Many of our loyal customers live in Andalucia and Evergreen, and Kelli and I feel that joining these chambers is a small way to extend support to the communities that support us with their ongoing patronage,” Richburg said.

JR’s lawn mower shop in Opp sells a variety of outdoor equipment and services everything they sell. (Brandon Robbins / Retailer in Alabama)

The Opp and Covington County Chamber of Commerce recognized JR’s Lawnmower Shop as their 2012 First Business of the Year. In 2010 and 2018, the Richburg Chamber honored it with its Spirit of Opportunity Award, which goes to an “ambassador” for Opp, a “shining star” for the city. He once spoke before the Opp Rotary Club on the subject, “It Can Be Done in Opp.”

In 2018, the Covington County Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities named JR’s Lawnmower Shop Small Business Employer of the Year for working with students with special needs through the Job Exploration Training or JET program.

In 2014 and again earlier this year, JR’s Lawnmower Service was named Silver Alabama Retailer of the Year with annual sales of $1 million to $5 million and annual sales of $5 million to $20 million, respectively.

Kelly Brandin, Executive Administrator of the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce said, “JR’s Lawnmower Shop has had and continues to have a major economic impact on our city and county.”

This story first appeared in Alabama Retailer Magazine and on the Alabama Retail Association website. JR’s Lawnmower Shop has been an ARA member since 2001.