#TPBTH Meet: Jeffrey Newton
Name: Jeffrey Scott Newton
Craft/Industry/Blog Passion: Handcrafted Transportation
Handle: LowCountryValet (Lowcountry Valet & Shuttle Co.)
How did you get started?
*note. this is a long story. lol*
I always loved cars and motorcycles and working with my hands. I was an ice sculptor in Charlotte and (in an attempt to create an ice empire) in August 2010 I moved to Charleston to start an ice sculpting company. It was a horrible failure, absolutely the worst.
In an attempt to not be homeless, I grabbed a job as a valet parking attendant to make ends meet. While working one day, I was on the phone making suggestions to help our valet parking be more successful and the restaurant owner overheard the convo. He later approached me and offered me the valet parking contract in place of the company I worked for. It seemed like a great opportunity so I jumped in head first. I soon realized, running a valet parking business wasn’t the glamorous job I had hoped it to be. What made it worst – I was still broke. Dead broke. I needed to supplement my income somehow so I took up a job as a bag boy at publix.. $6 bucks an hour and now I was working 90+ hours a week…. And I was still broke. It was a serious low point.
With many years in the event industry in Charlotte, I was seasoned in how things operated so I tried to expand my services to wedding shuttles by renting vans from the local Enterprise Rent a Car. This proved to only add even more work to my load with little return financially. In an attempt to save money on renting a van, I bought an astro van and started to customize it to use in place of the rentals. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it but this was yet another catastrophic failure that would later become nicknamed “The beast” by those who knew it. On the verge of giving up… or I should say, on one of the more severe verges of giving up something cool happened. I was working a wedding and an older guy in his 70s pulls up in a pristine 1966 Pontiac GTO. Cherry Red, 4 barrel, throaty exhaust, black vinyl interior..the stuff of legends. The owner, Gary, was a southern bred Charlestonian who’s best description would be Duke of Hazzard’esque. I pitched the idea to use his car in other weddings and boom, our story of things actually being successful begins. BUT, I was still broke. And I was still a bagger at Publix. To make things more complicated, I was going to be a single father it turned out. If you haven’t guessed, I was the best at making great life choices.
The mediocre (but very appreciated) success of the GTO made me want to expand this idea of “transportation with character”. I really wanted to add a VW bus, and I also really wanted larger shuttles…after exploring the idea I quickly learned I was too poor to afford a VW bus – and/or a large shuttle. And then something cool happened again. I stumbled upon vintage school buses… What’s more is that they were large shuttles AND looked like VW buses. As it turns out, buying a completely wrecked vintage bus is relatively cheap..restoring them is…challenging, and expensive. very expensive. I restored my first bus to “road worthy yet very reliable” in August 2013. It wasn’t a complete restoration. Some things had to be left with a certain…eh..patina. But the great thing was, people loved it, it was paying the bills and I now realized I had found my calling. Oh and I ditched the valet parking service side of the business…that felt really good.
What or who influenced you the most as you were developing your craft?
Honestly? I’m regularly influenced by people and companies not living to their full potential. Much like what got me started in valet, I am always trying to seek improvement. A lot of my ambition has been driven by my frustration that certain things don’t exist or only existed in half measures.
Design wise, I drool over things created by amazing craftsmen who specialize in anything from watches to tree houses and beyond. But the drive to push our service as well as each new project to the next level is fueled in a large part around the belief that if I don’t do it the right way, no-one else will.
Someone once told me not to reinvent the wheel…in my opinion, whoever decided to live their life that way didn’t have much ambition.
Why do you love your job?
When people talk about blessings I can honestly tell you that I am blessed. I can’t really decide which one thing makes me love my job as there are so many great things about it but the people have to be the biggest part. I have the most amazing and honest people working with me who genuinely care about the company and our clients. We laugh a lot and can be our normal weird selves here. Something that I absolutely love is when elderly people use our service. More times than not they got to experience these vehicles in their prime and they can’t wait to tell you about it. The look on their face and stories they give are a gift.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who are strong in areas I am weak..for instance waking up early. I’m really impressed by people who jump out of bed early in the morning. Don’t get me wrong I love mornings…but really don’t want to move for the first hour.
I’m inspired by my 4 yr old daughter who loves everyone and everything so easily and recklessly. Simple things make her happy. I want to be just like her.
5 words that describe who you are:
Selfish, Wild, Driven, Positive, Comical
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
A great leader. or a ninja. or a pirate..
3 things you aspire to be or do:
Have a strong relationship with God
Be a better me
(Fill in the blank) I appreciate _______ in my life, because _______.
I appreciate the God in my life, because he gave me purpose.
What was one of the hardest lessons or toughest obstacles you had to overcome?
Accepting that I was the direct root of all my problems and that I was wasting my blessings by taking half measures my entire life..
Advice for someone who is looking to begin a new hobby/job/life pursuit:
Be humble and accept that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn and more to do. Don’t make excuses and don’t settle.
Something your followers would be surprised to learn about you:
I never graduated high school and I was homeless for a year
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite drink: Alcohol – Gin and Tonic ; Non-alcoholic – milk
Favorite song: “Retrospect for Life” by Common , gives me chills every time I hear it.
Favorite quote: “if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”