Originally created 10/02/00

Firms putting faith to work



Most businesses advertise the information consumers need to know.

But some are going beyond the ordinary name, address and phone number. They are letting you in on their religion.

"God was calling me to go into business," says Jimmy Epps, owner of Designer Tops in Grovetown, who has the Christian fish symbol and Scriptures on his company van. "From day one, I dedicated this business to God."

Mr. Epps started the custom countertops business five years ago, after taking early retirement package Savannah River Site.

The member of Metro Augusta Baptist Church said he never intended the religious markings to draw customers who share his faith, but he acknowledges that is what has happened.

"There are a lot of people out there who want to do business with Christians because they feel you're honest and sincere," said Mr. Epps, whose company T-shirts and trailer bear the slogan "Heaven Bound, Hell Proof."

Thus far, his religious marketing has not generated negative comments.

"I've met a lot of people who comment on the Scripture, even if they don't want any work done," he said.

Robert Worley, owner of Plumb Crazy Plumbing Co., has "Jesus Saves" written on his company's white and plum-colored van. His office answering machine greets callers with a Scripture.

Mr. Worley said he was wary of playing up the religion advertising when he started the business two years ago.

"A lot of people who claim to be Christian businesses rip people off, and I didn't want to be associated with them," he said. "Sometimes I think people use the fish symbol to get people who wouldn't otherwise call them."

But Mr. Worley, a member of Victory Baptist Church, decided his beliefs were too strong for him to keep church and business separate.

He invites most of his customers to come to his church and spreads his religious message at every opportunity. Sometimes, he says, the message does get him extra business.

"I witnessed to a man at a gas station who is in Bible college in Augusta, and through him I got to do another man's plumbing," Mr. Worley said.

Others choose to run Christian businesses with little fanfare.

Byron Spickard, owner of A-Z General Services, a remodeling contractor, uses Scripture only on business cards, adding most people knows he runs a Christian business through word-of-mouth.

He said the religious aspect of his business has little to do with the customers he attracts.

"It's not people strictly out of the church. We do work for everybody," he said.

Mr. Spickard, also a member of Victory Baptist Church, said running a Christian business can be stressful because people expect more from you.

"I think when people know you're a Christian, they scrutinize you more," he said.

Other businesses also include religious messages, sometimes subtle or suggestive.

Radio advertisements for Barney's Pharmacy in Augusta encourages listeners to worship at the church of their choice. And national quick-serve restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, one of the few major corporations with a religious side, is closed on Sundays because of founder S. Truett Cathy's beliefs.

Mr. Epps, of Designer Tops, agrees with the sentiment.

"I work six days a week, but on Sundays I'm going to church," he said.

Reach Jennifer Bishop at (706) 823-3217.