Home Grown Business:
C & J Super Service Inc. (Shell)
Clay and Jennifer Ver Bryck
48 and 51
3602 N. Pacific Highway, Medford.
This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Clay Ver Bryck:
I started out doing accounting and taxes and this station became available. I had done the books for it when it was owned by someone else. I took over the old Fireball gas station in May of 1990. I married Jennifer in 1991 and she took over the daily running of the station. It was then that I noticed an increase in business.
— We were shut down in December of 1998 because of Department of Environmental Quality tank regulations.
After the previous owner of the station decided he was not going to rebuild and upgrade, Jennifer and I decided to buy it and do the upgrade ourselves. We then went and did all of the paperwork and got a Small Business Administration loan. Getting the loan was pretty easy because Jennifer is a woman owner and I was a disabled veteran. During the building, I helped as I could to get this business up and running for my wife. I also did this during tax season, which is a very busy time for me. We reopened in April 2001.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?
Both of us were born in the old Sacred Heart hospital, which used to be on the east side of Medford, and have lived here all our lives. The only time I was out of Oregon was the four years I was in the Marine Corps.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I used to work at and manage a Union 76 station on Highway 62 in the early 1980s and I liked it. I just knew I needed to own one and not work for someone else. I could see potential for a successful business. Also, I wanted something so Jennifer and I could spend all of our time together. We are together most of the time, 24 hours, 7 days a week. It is great.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?
We probably wouldn't rebuild at all and would go into some other line of work. Good employees are hard to find. We come from the old school, meaning when you are being paid to do something you go out and get it done and help your boss make money, because if he doesn't, you will not have a job long. Finding good employees is hard in any line of business, but more so in this line of work.
What's the toughest business decision you've made?
We feel the toughest decision was to rebuild or not. We did not know if we wanted to go in debt that much in such a competitive field.
Who are your competitors?
Our major competitors are all the oil company- and jobber-run stations. They have more than one and can lose in one market and make it up in another. Also, all of the chain-store-run stations. They can buy it cheaper because of the amount they buy. When you are a mom-and-pop operation, you make it there or not at all.
How do you define success for your business?
Our success is due to Jennifer. She is real good with people and is very patient. She learned how to run a business real fast. She is a fast learner.
What are your goals?
To be able to semi-retire when I am 50 years old. We want the station to support us in our rockin' years.
What training or education did you need?
I would say just knowing what I was doing from on-the-job training from my former boss, Tom Brown, whom I worked with at a Shell in White City and later at Union 76. He taught me a lot. If you can get some experience in the business it helps. Also since I had some computer experience, it helped in learning all the computers and software there is in the new computer-operated equipment.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Know what you want and where you want to be in the future and go for it. You will need an attitude that nothing is going to get in your way. Also be ready to put in a lot of extra hours until it takes off. Pray a lot and believe that with his help, and if it is meant to be, it can happen.