published Monday, June 27th, 2011

‘The right thing to do’

by Andy Johns
Mark Teter, left, co-owner of the Teter and Company Body Shop in Ringgold, talks with Ken Kokinda of the Ringgold Service Center, another auto repair shop a few blocks away that was destroyed in the April 27 tornado. Teter has made some of their service bays available for use by his business competitor.
Mark Teter, left, co-owner of the Teter and Company Body Shop in Ringgold, talks with Ken Kokinda of the Ringgold Service Center, another auto repair shop a few blocks away that was destroyed in the April 27 tornado. Teter has made some of their service bays available for use by his business competitor.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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RINGGOLD, Ga. — As a mechanic for the last 31 years, Cotton Perry is used to helping people after breakdowns.

But after a tornado destroyed his Ringgold Service Center in April, he’s thankful the generosity of a rival mechanic shop has kept him from a major financial breakdown of his own.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” Perry said. “I can never repay what they’ve done out of generosity.”

After hearing about his competitor’s problem, Mark Teter, who co-owns Teter and Co., called Perry to offer the use of three of his bays so Perry could help his customers and pay his employees.

“They brought us in here like family,” Perry said. “It’s kept us from being in a food line somewhere.”

Teter acknowledged that his company could have picked up a couple of Perry’s customers if the service center was forced to close.

“We could have enhanced our business ... but that’s not the way to do things,” he said. “[Sharing the space] was the right thing to do.”

The veteran body man said he wouldn’t have offered a quarter of his floor space to just anyone, but the two shops have a long history.

Teter started his body shop 30 years ago, about 18 months after Perry opened his garage. Back then, the two frequently referred customers to each other. Teter often towed vehicles for Perry using the body shop’s truck.

But four or five years ago, Teter’s shop started to offer a full line of auto repair work, putting them in direct, though friendly, competition.

Lindsay Teter, co-owner of the shop, said she and her father didn’t hesitate once they came up with the idea.

“We would want someone to do it for us if the shoe was on the other foot,” she said.

Perry said he was looking at “deep financial trouble” if he didn’t get his shop back up and running. He and his four mechanics were thinking of having to work on cars in parking lots or at their homes, he said.

Two mechanics had to find other temporary work until his shop can reopen, which Perry hopes can happen in six months. Teter has said they can have the space “as long as they need.”

But sharing one shop between two companies, two crews of mechanics and two sets of customers creates logistical issues.

When skies clouded up last week, Perry and Lindsay Teter had to move a copper Chevrolet Custom 10 pickup belonging to one of Perry’s customers so they could back a Teter customer’s Lexus SUV out of a bay to make room so a Honda that the Teters had just primed could be under cover in case of rain.

But it’s all worth it to Teter, who said the person-to-person and spiritual rewards outweigh any financial or logistical costs.

“If you have an opportunity to help somebody you should do it,” he said. “When I’m pleading my case with the Maker I’d like to have a few good things to say about myself.”

Ringgold Service Center customers also are saying good things.

Geri Allen said she’s been bringing her cars to Perry for 15 years and didn’t know where to take her Ford Focus when it needed brake work after the storm.

She said the Teters’ generosity is a great example of the community banding together.

“These are in competition,” she said of the businesses. “I said, ‘That’s great.’”

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
NorthChatter said...

I have known Mark for a number of years and I can't say this story surprises me at all. Mark came to the area years ago to attend college and never ended up leaving.

It never ceases to amaze me how generous people can be during times of crisis and adversity. Stories like this make me work every day to try to be a better person, because I can't honestly say I would have done the same thing if I was in Mark's shoes.

St. Peter is watching Mark and he just put a check mark by your name.

June 27, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.
thelmafrey said...

I just heard it on the radio that "Auto Insurance Clearance" offers auto car insurance for less than $1 a day for drivers, any one aware of this ? have anyone purchased insurance through them. I did search for them and found them online.

June 27, 2011 at 1:57 a.m.
Oz said...

Great story! Too bad these guys don't work on Wall Street or in the Government.

June 27, 2011 at 8:31 a.m.

Guys on Wall Street or the Government have other issues. They live by the almighty dollar and fail to understand they can't take it with them. Life is a lot easier when we give instead of take and take. Mark Teter is an example to be followed.

June 27, 2011 at 2:07 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

I'm not surprised either...I used to work across the street and one morning I got to work around 9:30 (we opened at 10:00) and when I got out of my car I noticed a rear tire was low. I went across to Teter's and his daughter said to bring it over and they would look at it. Later I noticed the car was back in front of the store and the tire was OK so I called them. She said it was a small leak and "no charge". They are really,really nice people and I wish them much success.

June 27, 2011 at 4:41 p.m.
magictj said...

What a great story! You don't see that type of unselfishness in business very often.

June 28, 2011 at 7:18 a.m.
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