From left, Randall Whitworth, Randy Whitworth, Kimberly Countryman and Amberly Whitworth in the Mr. Transmission/Milex shop owned by Countryman and located off Alabama 119 and U.S. 280 in the Greystone area.
When Randy Whitworth and his three adult children get together, it’s not unusual for them to discuss business.
That’s because all of them are in the same business: transmissions and auto repair.
Whitworth, 60, owns the Mr. Transmission shops in the Riverchase area and in Pelham. His daughter, Amberly Whitworth, is the manager of the Riverchase shop, while his son, Randall Whitworth, manages the one in Pelham.
His oldest daughter, Kimberly Countryman, coordinated the sales, marketing, advertising and administrative responsibilities for both locations for the past 12 years, but in June she opened her own Mr. Transmission/Milex shop on Alabama 119, just off U.S. 280 and across from the new Tattersall Park development.
The Whitworths say automotive work is in their blood. Randy’s father was a diesel mechanic for Ryder in Tennessee. Randy has been in automotive repair for about 42 years and been in business for himself for 33 years.
In the mid-1980s, he opened a Mr. Transmission shop on U.S. 31 in Hoover, not far from Interstate 65. He bought another Mr. Transmission in Pelham in 2007 and owned a third one on Green Springs Highway in Homewood for six or seven years but sold it.
Randy also sold the property on U.S. 31 in Hoover last October and opened a new shop off Old Montgomery Highway in the Riverchase area.
GROWING UP IN THE SHOP
All of his children grew up in his Hoover Mr. Transmission location, pretty literally. They would come there after school and spend time there during the summer.
When Kimberly turned 15, she started helping out with small chores, like cleaning the shop and cleaning windows and doors.
“As you show a little responsibility, you just get a little bit more responsibility,” she said.
One summer, she told her dad she wanted to learn how to help out in the office, so he taught her how to write up customers’ tickets and get prices on parts and supplies. At 16, she was helping out with a variety of administrative responsibilities, such as billing and marketing, allowing her dad more time to focus on helping technicians with vehicles in the shop, she said.
She started a co-op program in high school, where she got out of McAdory High School early and came to work with her dad in the afternoon.
“I would just watch him and listen and learn,” she said. “How he would talk to his customers, his choice of wording. He can say one thing and the next person say the exact same thing, and it’s taken completely differently. It’s just how he presents himself. Just to watch him is amazing. It’s just a gift.”
Randy taught her the importance of finding quality parts and earning the trust of customers by taking care of them with good, educated decisions, she said.
After high school, Kimberly continued working with her dad during the day and took online classes at night through the University of Alabama. In 2007, she helped with the details of purchasing the Pelham location and then took over administrative responsibilities for both shops.
At first, she started in nursing school, thinking she wanted to become a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist, but after a year, “it just didn’t feel right,” she said. She enjoyed the work she was doing for her father and ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in business in May 2009.
The next month, she had her first of three children and was back in the office a week later, with a small nursery set up beside the office. However, she wasn’t the manager of either shop.
“I didn’t want to have to open or close,” she said. “I told him [Randy] I would never become a manager, and I’m sitting here running a shop 10 years later. Don’t ever say never because you do not know what the future holds.”
‘I GUESS IT’S IN MY BLOOD’
Amberly, Randy’s second child, and Randall, the youngest, also grew up in the shop.
After high school, Amberly went to school and played softball at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton for two years and the University of Mobile for one year. She transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham after her junior year and started helping out her dad. In 2008, at age 22, she became manager of the Pelham shop, and in 2011, she switched to manage the Hoover location.
She originally had planned to get a business degree and open her own fitness center, but her dad needed help in the shop and “once I started helping, I really liked it and I was really good at it,” she said. “I picked it up real quick.”
Randall got his first real taste of the business at age 15 or 16 when he got a set of tools and started helping in the shop after school and in the summers.
“It’s just something I enjoyed doing. I wasn’t pushed into it,” he said. “When I’m working on cars, it’s just peaceful to me. I guess it’s in my blood.”
At 17, he started the co-op program and came to work more for his dad. He also learned the office part of the business and eventually became manager of the Pelham Mr. Transmission in 2016. He’s now 27.
Randy said all three of his children are really good at what they do, and when they were younger, he always missed them at the shop when they would leave after the summers.
Each one sort of has their own niche. Randall is great with mechanics in the shop and shooting for perfection with the details, he said. Amberly can diagnose problems in vehicles with the best of mechanics and is good at getting parts, and Kimberly is particularly strong with business skills, he said.
Photo by Erin Nelson.
Story by JON ANDERSON
Article originally published by Hoover Sun: hooversun.com/businesses/randy-whitworth-children-share-bond-at-mr-transmission/