Employees are getting recertified on the brands of small engines they repair. The store is restocking inventory. And they are braced for a steady stream of visits from homeowners and businesses eager to tend to their lawns.
The store does almost anything when it comes to lawn and garden equipment, owner Garry Morrison said. They can help with equipment that is battery powered, gas-powered and electric powered.
The business draws from the three-state area of Arkansas, Mississippi and all over western Tennessee, and he and his 15-18 employees have sold lawn mowers to customers as far away as Delaware and California. It’s a testament to the store’s reputation and the customer service that Bartlett Small Engines is known for, Morrison said.
“Word spreads,” he said with a smile in his voice. “… I would say they have to be satisfied to keep coming back. That’s what keeps us in business.”
One message he likes to convey to potential customers is that Bartlett Small Engines is experienced but still small enough to give people a personal experience.
He’s noticed an increasing trend of customers who stop by to browse and ask questions but who leave to buy their equipment online. He and his staff focus on making the experience at Bartlett Small Engines so good that these “look local, buy online” shoppers develop a desire to trade with somebody local.
Those who linger learn that the local store owner will even help them find financing, if needed.
Morrison said he ensures that his business also gives back to its community and the greater Memphis Metro Area, donating to charitable and civic-minded groups like Al Chymia Shrine Temple in Memphis, Youth Villages in Bartlett and Lifeline to Success in Memphis (which employs ex-offenders to work on blight control).
He grew up at the Ace Hardware store his parents operated in Bartlett, starting in 1966. Now gone, the business was near where Holliday Flowers & Events Inc. is now.
“I started tinkering with lawnmowers in the back of the hardware store, and it kind of grew from there,” he said.
A 1969 graduate of Bartlett High School, Morrison learned the ropes of small engine work, and his family opened Bartlett Small Engines on Dec. 1, 1970. He eventually took over operations in 1990.
Today, the business is pretty evenly split in serving homeowners and commercial interests. In addition to supporting homeowners’ needs, Morrison said they help lawn-care entrepreneurs get started with the proper equipment, sell services and equipment to cities and counties, and work for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Bartlett Small Engines sells and services new and reconditioned equipment from residential mowers, trimmers and blowers to welders, tree-climbing gear for arborists, and commercial mowers that run around $20,000 to $30,000. The shelves stock parts, accessories and safety gear.
The employees sharpen many types of blades, operate a parts business, manage pre-season equipment inspections and tune-ups, advise on equipment winterization and nurture friendly relationships with the customers.
Many of the return visitors are in their third or fourth generations of using the company, and they feel like family to the business’ owner and employees.
That’s Morrison’s favorite part of the job, he said — interacting with his customers. “I like people.”