Photo and article by Bill Hughes
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Liz and Tony Foy married for just three years and have been on a career path through eight states beginning in their Ohio hometown on the shore of Lake Erie to their new auto repair business on the shore of Lake Murray.
Auto Repair Center
The Foys own and operate Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care of Columbia on Bush River Road near the intersection of S.C. 6. A visitor can almost see the SCE& G hydro plant’s smokestacks from the front door.
The Cottman shop has been on Bush River Road almost since development descended on the neighborhood nearly a decade ago. Tony Foy’s involvement in the business only dates back to November, 2012, when he was dispatched by Cottman’s Philadelphia headquarters to see what he could do to revitalize the struggling auto center.
The assignment was business as usual for Foy, who for four years had worked as a franchise support manager (i.e. troubleshooter) for Cottman and its sister company AAMCO Transmissions. The job involved traveling around the U.S., turning around underperforming shops and remaking them into attractive investments for new franchisees.
That was the case at the Lake Murray shop, which ranked 34th to 35th on a performance scale of some 70 Cottman locations nationally.
Foy said that after a couple of months of rebuilding the business, it dawned on him that it was in the midst of a growing community with a tremendous potential for future growth.
He summoned his wife from their home in Toledo, Ohio, who arrived in the Midlands and fell in love with the business and the friendly people in the neighborhood.
Enough said. Last April, instead of another franchisee, the Foys bought the shop for their own. Today, their efforts have paid off with the shop rising to fourth place in Cottman’s national rankings.
“This is our home now. Our new adventure,” said Liz Foy, who left a 17-year-job with a Toledo credit union to join the six-person staff at Lake Murray. Formerly, manager of the credit union’s call center, she now handles the shop’s payroll, marketing, and customer relations duties.
Growing up in Toledo, Tony Foy was under heavy influence to become part of the automobile industry. The city is home to the Jeep and several other Fortune 500 automobile companies.
“I’ve been turning wrenches on cars since I graduated from high school,” is the way he puts it. He was a mechanic for a General Motors dealership for 20 years and four years as a service manager at another before taking the Cottman job. Liz Foy says her husband has been successful ” because he not only knows how to manage, but he can help the techs in the back.”
Auto Repair Service In Columbia, SC
The Foys say they want to put down roots in the Midlands, but the business takes so much of their time they haven’t had time to search for a house. “We’ve got time,” Liz Foy said. “We’ve got a year’s lease on an apartment, but there’s nothing like having your own home.”
Tony Foy says his goal is to develop the shop to the point where it can operate without his involvement and search for another in the Midlands to develop. Or, who knows, Cottman has already called with a proposal to troubleshoot another store.
The Cottman of Columbia owners can be reached online at www.cottmanofcolumbia.com/.