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Anthony Lewis, 42 Owner of A&A Upholstery

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I started out a long time ago when I was in middle school in a home economics class where I ended up making a sweat suit. You never thought down the line that you'd be doing something pertaining to sewing. And now here I am doing car seats.

I like to take something and change it. Give it an altogether different look. Something that nobody's ever seen before.

I went in the Marines for six years and came out of that and went into warehouse — shipping and receiving for S&K Famous Brands. It was a pretty good job.

I worked for Richfood and then did some temporary work. The temporary thing came to an end, so I talked to my grandmother, my father's mother — I call my dad Fred — I said do you think Fred would need any help up there [at A&A Upholstery]? I think they were basically waiting for that to happen.

I signed on part time. Part time turned into full time. Full time turned into running the show. Running the show turned into running my own business. This is sort of like — it's sort of like my aunt said — that this is my calling.

I've done everything from cars, boats, motorcycles and airplanes, furniture, salons, dental, health equipment. It's like the more I do, the better I get.

I got one car that won first place — a '68 Impala Super Sport — at the Dinwiddie Super Chevy Show this past summer. That car was something else. My thing was just putting it together so it would be something that would catch the eye.

Sometimes I have a little notebook where I go out to Byrd Park and just draw designs and sketch stuff.

It takes a whole lot of time to teach somebody to do this. Going through the trials and tribulations of hiring somebody to do this and then they come in and they don't want to work — anybody that owns a local business knows good workers are hard to find.

Rather than going through the trouble of doing something twice, it's better to do things yourself.

The hardest thing about this job … is the different designs. Sometimes a design can be a headache in itself depending on how you're going to do it. But sometimes the hardest of things that look extremely complicated are sometimes the simplest.

It may be four to five new customers a month. Once I get them, I've got them for life. He may not come back that year, but he'll come back the following year.

This is what I do, 24/7. I like to change stuff. I often get cars where … the sky's the limit. We put it together. And if the customer loves it? I'm satisfied. S

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