By J.M. Copeland
For Hometown News
David Carter's secret to success involves two concepts, knowing what your customers want and providing good service.
Both traits are evident at Truck Stuff Direct, just south of Reed Canal Road at 2800 S. Nova Road in Port Orange.
The business has completely evolved in the nearly 22 years since Mr. Carter and his wife, Katy, started their business as Atlantic Auto Tint. Mr. Carter said they decided to expand to truck accessories about 10 years ago, officially opening the second business Truck Stuff Direct.
"Cars and trucks have always been my thing," Mr. Carter said. "We focus on trucks but we do carry car accessories."
The showroom includes a wide variety of accessories, including various styles of Tonneau covers for trucks. The showroom allows customers who have shopped online at TruckStuffDirect.com or other company sites, the opportunity to see and touch the items.
"We have those people that go online, do a little looking and then walk in the front door and ask if we've got it," Mr. Carter said. "If we don't have what they are looking for, 90 percent of the time I can get it for them the next day. It does pay to surf online and see what you want and then go to a local guy who is going to be able to install it for you."
Professional installation is another service provided.
"I can install it for the generally the same price as online," Mr. Carter said. "If they buy it somewhere else online, they have to wait a week and install it themselves. If it isn't right or pieces are missing, they have to pay to ship it back."
The customers have evolved with the business. He said the typical customer of 15 to 20 years ago was a middle age or older male who used the vehicle for work.
Mr. Carter said he has learned from these changes and told a story about one of the first times he realized his customer base had changed.
"A woman came in and was looking at different things for a truck. I gave her a catalog and said 'you can take this home and let your husband see the options and decide what he wants,'" he said.
The woman's response -- "This is my truck."
"I never made that mistake again," he laughed,
Today, there are many options designed especially for women as more manufacturers realize women own their own trucks.
"There are a fair amount of products that are offered in cammo, and now there is pink cammo, too, because so many women own trucks," Mr. Carter said.
The trucks also have changed.
"Fifteen years ago there were workingmen's trucks, more basic. Now they are the 'Cadillac' of trucks. You open the doors to get in and they are very plush with padded seats and dashboards, backup cameras. All high end," Mr. Carter said. "It used to be only the cars had these things now trucks have them, too."
Dealing with the largest distributors of truck accessories in the world means Truck Stuff Direct can honor the warranties.
"We back it 100 percent and anything we install has a three-year warranty," Mr. Carter said.
Even customers who buy elsewhere with the intent of doing the installation can have Truck Stuff Direct do the installation for a fee.
"If they buy it online and decide it's more than they want to mess with, we will install it, but if it's the wrong size or there are missing pieces, the customer will have to deal with the manufacturers," he said.
Mr. Carter does most of the installation and service himself, although his son, also named David, often pitches in when he isn't working at his job. Ms. Carter has taken on the computer aspect of the business.
"She is computer savvy so she does the computer end of the business. We have a webmaster who does our online site and she's learning a lot from him," Mr. Carter said.
The shop is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.