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Local family celebrates 50th anniversary in business

Clarence Bush has owned a successful family auto repair shop for 50 years, but he gives God all the credit for this accomplishment.

Clarence, 92, has owned Bush’s Auto Repair & Service – located at 247 Main St. North in the small town of New Ellenton, South Carolina – since Nov. 20, 1971. “That’s when I bought the other man out,” he says. “I worked with him for 16 years.” Many years earlier, in 1954, Clarence broke his leg and was out of work for several months. At that time, he and his wife, Mary, who have been married for 71 years, and their four children were destitute. One night, she told him she had cooked the last of their food for dinner and said, “’I don’t know what we’re going to do for breakfast.’” At 4 a.m., they heard someone knocking on their door. It was Paul Owens – one of his former co-workers – who came to check on him. Clarence told him he was broke and had no money to feed his family. Owens offered him $8,000, but, surprisingly, he only accepted $20, which he vowed to pay back once he got another job and received his first paycheck. With that money, Clarence bought $17 worth of groceries and kept $3. “There’s never been a day I’ve been broke since,” he states.

Clarence Bush, 92, founded Bush’s Auto Repair & Service on Nov. 20, 1971, and the business is still in his name. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

Owens also offered Clarence a job pumping gas at his gas station in New Ellenton. Owens eventually went broke and offered to sign the lease over to him. “Gulf Oil Company owned it,” he explains. Aiken Oil Company bought Bush’s Auto a few years later, and Clarence rented the business from that company until 1976, when he bought it for $30,000. “I finished paying everything here in 1987,” he states. “I haven’t owed anybody.” Clarence says he officially retired and began collecting Social Security when he turned 68, but that didn’t stop him from going to work. While his youngest son, Pat, now runs the shop’s day-to-day operations, Clarence still shows up every morning to check on the business. He also reads the Bible every day and has leaned on his faith in many dark times, including losing three of his nine children to cancer. Clarence and his wife now have 20 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and four or five great-great-grandchildren. Many of his family members have worked for Bush’s Auto over the years.

Barbara Smith (left) and Pat Bush run the auto repair shop their father bought 50 years ago in New Ellenton, South Carolina. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

Pat began working at the shop 43 years ago. “I started walking from middle school when I was 14,” he says. His sister, Barbara, also helps out at the shop when he needs her. Pat states he enjoys being self-employed and forming relationships with his customers. “Like most businesses, you may get a difficult customer every once in a while,” he explains. Pat says he also “Recognizes the sacrifice my parents made in getting this business established.” Bush’s Auto provides a variety of services, including major engine repair, brake work, and tire replacement. He states the biggest challenge has been “diagnosing the vehicles and figuring out what’s wrong.” Like his father, Pat allows customers who can’t afford the repairs to come back and pay for them later.

The family celebrated the business’s 50th anniversary with a party at the shop. They say 75-100 family members and customers showed up, and each received a free meal and souvenirs.

Despite the obstacles Clarence has faced, he says God continues to bless him. “There’s never been a day we didn’t have a full day’s work,” he states.


  • Jonathan Hanna
    Posted November 23, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Clarence Bush is quite simply one of the finest men you’ll ever meet. He is and has been a rock in the small community of New Ellenton for over 50 years. A man who lives out his faith in his everyday deeds with an impeccable character. Pat is following in his footsteps and continuing the legacy of serving his fellow man. Salt of the earth family in every way. They take care of my 93 year old mother’s car whenever it needs service. Pick it up and drop it back off for her each time. It’s a blessing to know people like this still are in business.

    • Neil Gordon
      Posted January 25, 2022 at 5:23 am

      Thanks for sharing Jonathan— this is one of our favorite stories since beginning Augusta Business Daily!

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