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Guy's Night Out

Aiken Business Owners Gather Around the Fire to Talk Shop

Since the discovery of fire, men have loved being around it. Throw in some delicious smoked local BBQ and a cooler of beer and you’ve got the ideal setting for guys to hang out and catch up with each other. 

The bonfire photo shoot set up by Aiken City Lifestyle's photographer, Rebecca Williams, offered just that for a few local small business owners. With a fire roaring, the guys arrived at the future home site of David Rickenbacker ready to meet, mingle and talk shop. Kurt Mueller of Ironhead Barbeque provided the food which paired perfectly with an ice-cold beer. 

Before long, Rickenbacker, Chris Williams, Richard Thomas, Nick Crook, David Hopkins, Bobby Robinson, Ryan Williams, and Kevin Ard had gotten past the introductions and were sharing stories about themselves and their businesses. Later in the evening, Christian Powers stopped by to help model ROC and Design gear sent by Lee Fulmer who was on the road to Nashville.

There’s a sense of community among men who share commonalities: starting a business, the ins and outs of running it successfully, hiring, and marketing. While there’s an endless list, it’s important for guys to gather and share experiences and learn from one another. 

It was fun to watch the conversation flow and the guys share a laugh or two. These business owners are leaving their marks on Aiken while building a legacy for themselves and their families. Here's a little about the guys.

There’s a big difference between getting your car washed and getting it detailed and Chris Williams, owner of East Coast Custom Detail, knows all about it. His start with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and being a firefighter after 9/11 cultivated his keen eye for details. Chris details all kinds of cars from the classics to the brand-new ones promising a pristine job backed by his eight certifications earned in Big Bear Lake, CA.

He offers flooring solutions full time and the coolest self-serve beer tap truck as a side gig-now that says entrepreneur! Richard Thomas started Decorative Concrete Solutions less than two years ago and has found a niche in the Aiken and throughout South Carolina. His work is much more than stamped concrete as he is the only one certified in the state to offer the WERM flooring system, a poured rubber floor product that seals and eliminates the need for mats. Think garage floor, horse trailer, barns, grooming areas, vet offices. They are easy to spray and clean and nothing gets through them. But that’s not all Richard is up to. He is also the owner of a 1951 Chevy 3100 truck turned self-serve beer tap bar that can be rented for any event! He retro-fitted the bed of the truck to hold 4 taps and is launching this new mobile bar this month. Get ready to tap it at your next shindig! 

There’s something special about owning a business with your family and David Hopkins and Bobby Robinson know all about it. David Hopkins, owner of Dogwood Construction, started helping his father build barns when he was growing up in Florida. After making his way to Aiken years later, David started his own company. He specializes in custom homes, equestrian communities and barns, and even building on the commercial side. Helping him with Dogwood in its earlier stages was his brother-in-law, Bobby Robinson. Once well-established in the Aiken community, the two saw the need for a roofing company to complement their business. Rite Price Roofing was born and David saw that Bobby would be the perfect guy to run it. They love working together and supporting and encouraging each other, and David is grateful to have been able to help his brother-in-law start his career. David’s favorite part of Dogwood Construction is seeing the final product of a custom job while Bobby really enjoys the customer service part of his business.

A pro competitor on the circuit since September of 2021, Kurt Mueller knows BBQ. A self-proclaimed fanatic that began at the age of nine, he learned the art of grilling and barbeque from his dad and has worked to create the perfect barbeque in appearance, tenderness, and taste. To Kurt, BBQ is all about people coming together and building relationships which is why it was the perfect meal for the ACL bonfire photoshoot. Kurt loves working under pressure in high- stress situations which is one reason he did so well in the Food Network competition. He embraces failure and strives to continuously improve which makes him such a competitive pitmaster. Community is important when building a craft, and Kurt is thankful for his mentor, Randall Bowman of Deep South Smokers, who has offered great advice along his BBQ journey. 

Ryan Williams, ACL’s Rebecca Williams’ husband, is not only a photoshoot assistant extraordinaire, he is also an expert saddler. Ryan specializes in jumper and dressage saddle repairs right here in Aiken. With nearly 10 years of experience making and repairing saddles, he started his own business, Ryan the Saddler LLC. which evolved into a full-time gig. Williams has devoted many hours and long days perfecting his craft, including spending time in England to see firsthand the manufacturing in factories. Problem solving is his favorite part of the day-to-day grind. 

Long time Aiken resident, Kevin Ard, has worked in the medical community as a physician assistant, but prior to that, he served in the US Navy as a medic. However, something new and exciting is on the horizon as his resume now includes the title of business owner. Kevin has purchased 40 acres of land just outside of Aiken where he and his family have big plans to create a seasonal family-friendly venue. This project will be built in phases, but the first phase is the one he’s most excited about. It will be called Deadly Hollow Horror, a terrifyingly haunted trail that winds deep into the woods, and is expected to open this fall. Stay tuned for details!

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