Opp outdoor equipment business grows from backyard venture to five buildings on 10 acres


Joe Richburg worked for 19 years at an Opp automobile dealership.

Troy Richburg

In October of 1986, he and his father, Troy Richburg, began a lawnmower repair business in a single roll-up garage in the backyard of Joe’s childhood Opp home.

Joe continued to report to his job at the dealership by day and each evening serve the line of people waiting for him and his dad to fix their mowers in Opp.

In 1991, he and his dad erected a 30 x 70 metal structure on land they had purchased just up the road. By 1992, J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop opened its first showroom and Joe quit his day job for full-time business ownership.

I love taking care of customers,” said Joe. “You can go anywhere and buy a lawn mower, even order one online, but you’re not going to get J.R. service. You’re not going to get to call old J.R., and you’re not going to get the answer, ‘Bring it on in, we’ll take care of it.’ ” It is customer service that sets J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop apart.

While the original purpose of the business was strictly lawnmower repair, “I soon realized I needed to expand by offering lawn and garden products and outdoor equipment, and eventually recognized the importance of carrying a full range of parts,” said Joe.

Our business is stocked with the parts necessary to repair and maintain the products we sell, including lawnmowers, hand-held lawn equipment, golf carts, ATVs, UTVs and most outdoor sporting units,” he said.

J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop now occupies five structures and a fenced lot on 10-plus acres in Opp, including the main showroom/repair shop/covered area for lawn mowers, an office building, three warehouses and the fenced lot for its golf cart inventory. J.R.’s began selling, servicing and renting golf carts in 2000.

It was just me and my daddy for several years there,” said Joe, “but now we’ve got 22 full-time employees and three part-time employees.”

Owners Kelli and Joe Richburg pose on one of the many riding lawnmowers available at J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop in Opp. The company services everything it sells.

Joe is founder, president and chief executive officer, along with doing sales, service and repair when needed. Kelli Richburg, Joe’s wife and co-owner of the business, is vice president and human resources director. Kelli also handles accounts payable, payroll and insurance.

Kelli, an Opp native who began working at J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop 11 years ago in the office and has been married to Joe for a decade, said, “It is a pleasure to help his business and support his community activities.”

Besides selling and servicing lawnmowers, outdoor equipment and golf carts, Joe works about 200 heads of cattle with Kelli’s father. He is a director with the Opp Farmers’ Cooperative Market and the Cattlemen’s Association.

Opp native L. Joel Smith describes his friend as “a faithful pillar of his community. To Joe, his business is not just a career –  it’s a passion – a passion for his employees, customers and community.”

Joe serves on the boards of the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission and Opp Utilities. He is an Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce investor and past president. J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop is also a member of the Andalusia and Evergreen chambers of commerce. “Many of our loyal customers live in Andalusia and Evergreen, and Kelli and I feel joining these chambers is a small way to extend support to the communities that support us with their continued patronage,” said Joe.

The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce recognized J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop as its inaugural Business of the Year in 2012. In 2010 and 2018, the chamber honored Joe with its Spirit of Opportunity Award, which goes to an “ambassador” for Opp, a “shining star” for the city. Joe even once addressed the Opp Rotary Club on the topic “It Can Be Done in Opp.” In October 2018, the Covington County Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities named J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop as the Small Business Employer of the Year award for working with special needs students in the Job Exploration Training, or JET, program.

In 2014 and earlier this year, J.R.’s Lawnmower Service was recognized as a Silver Alabama Retailer of the Year, in the Annual Sales $1 Million to $5 Million and the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million, respectively.

Kelly Brandin, executive administrator of the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop has had and continues to have a major economic impact on our city and county.”

J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop at 1006 W. Cumming Ave. in Opp sells lawn and garden products, outdoor equipment, golf carts, ATVs, UTVs and most outdoor sporting units.

Story by Nancy King Dennis. Photos by Brandon Robbins.

This article also appears on Pages 14 and 15
of the November 2022 Alabama Retailer