The Story of S.W. Rodgers
A Letter from Steve and Reta Rodgers
In the late Seventies, I was in a partnership with two of my brothers. During those years, I began to contemplate starting my own business. The Northern Virginia area offered extraordinary opportunities, and I wanted to be a part of its growth and expansion. I sensed that the appropriate time to exit Rodgers Bros. excavating was at the conclusion of a large project I was in charge of. That project was the Fair Oaks Mall at Route 50 and West Ox Road. When that project was completed, I left to embark on my own.
My vested interest in Rodgers Bros. was taken out in six pieces of equipment along with a note payable to Rodgers Bros. which took me three years to pay off. It certainly didn’t help that during this time in the country interest rates on equipment loans could be as high as 18 to 20 percent. Not to mention that in 1980, the country was in a recession. Being as I had no credit history as a business owner as well as no money to start a business, I was thankful for any kind of deal. In that regard, I asked my wife Reta if she could get a job so that we could save some seed money for our startup costs.
Even though we had four children between the ages of one and ten, Reta chose a profession in the real estate business. She took night classes to earn her six credit hours and was soon licensed as an agent with Harding Realtors. Her challenge to earn extra money to fund the startup costs was so compelling that she sold enough real estate to be named “Rookie of the Year” in 1978. In those days, the average price of a home in Fauquier County was 65 to 70 thousand dollars. Most, if not all, of her sales we co-brokered commissions, meaning the earnings coming to her firm averaged between eighteen hundred to two thousand dollars, of which she received twenty percent. Nonetheless, she saved every penny, and in no time, we had $4,500 saved, and away we went.
On June 30, 1980, S.W. Rodgers Company became a reality. Our office was located in our home, and of course, Reta was appointed to be secretary, treasurer, accounts payable, and accounts receivable manager, even though she had no experience at all. We chose our company logo while sitting at the kitchen table drawing various and sundry designs. At last, we agreed upon the logo and the name, but we didn’t have a color. That wasn’t difficult to decide seeing that there were already red, yellow, blue, and green companies established in business. Orange and black it was, just like my high school colors back in West Virginia.
We rented a space in Manassas for $200 a month, where we parked the equipment. We utilized a 3-sided lean-to shed for a mechanic shop. With only a skeleton crew, we kept the equipment busy for about six months doing odd rental jobs. I would move the equipment at night and run the jobs during the day. Our very first contract job was a small road for a subdivision called View Tree in Warrenton. I soon realized that developers wanted turnkey projects to include not only the dirt but utilities, and curb and gutter. This precipitated the need for an estimator who could bid such jobs.
So began a new growth for S.W. Rodgers which required the need for proper office space. We moved our office to the First Virginia Bank building on Sudley Road in Manassas and relocated to a shop on Bethlehem Road with three bays.
From 1980 to 1983, our number of employees had grown from two to forty five. In 1983, we bought a ten acre parcel of land on Wellington Road in Gainesville and built our office and shop complex, where we are still located today.
The stories that could be told during those formative years are too numerous to mention. Some of the stories and memories include employees who are still with us today and I would remiss not to extend my thanks to them for their years of dedication and service. I am so proud and honored to have had these folks stand with me through the times of feast and famine. Above all, I am thankful beyond measure to God for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my hearts passion. S.W. Rodgers Co. has truly been and continues to be a thrilling life experience.
—Steve and Reta Rodgers