By Carla McKeown
Almost 15 years ago, just weeks before the date that would become infamous as 9-11, Jill and J.W. Paschal left the Dallas-Fort Worth area and moved to Graham.
In the old Coca Cola bottling plant on East Fourth Street, they opened up Air Manufacturing Corporation, a company that specializes in add-on air conditioning kits for vehicles, usually vintage cars/trucks or hot rods. Today, they’ve expanded their business offerings to four companies. In addition to running the A/C business, they also have an import retail store, a shipping service and a new scrapbooking/crafts company.
“I grew up in the (A/C) industry,” J.W. says. And, when he says that, he means it literally. His father, A.J. “Buddy” Paschal, was one of the pioneers of the A/C industry, beginning in the 1950s. J.W. now has more than 30 years of experience himself.
The couple, who have been married for 23 years, moved here with their four children, Christopher, now 27; Stephen, 24; Nathan, 21; and Meagan, 18. Today, the two oldest live in the DFW Metroplex, and the two youngest kids are going to school at Hardin Simmons University. Now, it’s just Jill and J.W. and the three dogs keeping them company who live and work in the old building at 1040 E. Fourth St.
Their main business, AMC, is mostly an online business. Last week, J.W. was putting together A/C kits for clients in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Kansas City. After years of running a business in Fort Worth, he jumped at the chances the Internet offered. “Getting started in the Internet, I saw that with the changes in the industry, this was the marketplace for somebody with my expertise, knowledge and ability to find product,” J.W. says.
One benefit to having an Internet-based business is that it’s mobile. “As long as I have a laptop, I can work my business anywhere in the world,” he says.
As soon as the couple began operating AMC from Graham, they saw the need for a shipping service here. J.W. says that since he was already shipping products all over the world, he figured he might as well offer the service to others in Graham.
“When we first moved here, FedEx just about didn’t come here, and to send something with UPS, we were told you had to meet the driver in the Walmart parking lot,” J.W. says.
Today, AMC Shipping is a FedEx shipping center. Because they are listed on the FedEx website, they often have customers who stop in as they are traveling across the countryside. But, they have many local customers, as well.
The combination of a manufacturing business and a shipping service is understandable. But, when asked how they got into the retail import business, Jill and J.W. laugh and look at each other knowingly.
“The store was started by accident,” J.W. says.
“Well, really, it was started by badgering,” Jill insists, and they chuckle.
Not long after they bought the old Coca Cola building in Graham, the couple traveled to Mexico to visit friends. While there, Jill “badgered” J.W. into filling up the van with the arts and crafts items she found so delightful. She intended to use them to decorate their new building.
Later, back in Graham, J.W. was unloading the van when a woman stopped and asked if the items were for sale. J.S. said, “No.” Then, another potential buyer stopped. When the third woman came by, J.W. sold her almost everything they had brought home. So, they got a trailer and went back to Mexico for another load.
And, that’s how AMC Imports was born.
They continued to travel south of the border for the hand-crafted items, but the violence in Mexico has forced them to have it all shipped to Graham nowadays, J.W. said. Most of the items in AMC Imports are handmade in Mexico, but they do sell some Graham Steers items, holiday decorations, etc.
“We’ve met a lot of interesting people doing this store,” Jill says. “We have such a variety of customers.”
Although they had lived in the city for many years, the Paschals now enjoy living in Graham and appreciate the community.
“We’ve met a lot of people from Graham, and it made a smooth transition out of moving from the city to a small town,” Jill says. “We enjoy talking to people We’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about this side of town.”
“And about this building,” J.W. adds.
The recent drop in the price of oil has affected their business only slightly with some local companies reducing the amount of shipping that they do. But, to counter that, J.W. says, they’re seeing more individuals shipping items. Additionally, much of the AMC business is with a sector of society not typically affected by the regular ups and downs of the economy.
“Some of these vehicles are $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 vehicles. I just worked on an air conditioner for Joe DiMaggio’s car,” J.W. said. “Some of these people have hundreds of collector cars…the economy doesn’t really affect them.”
The retail shop tends to be seasonal, with holidays, including Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Christmas bringing in customers looking for gifts. And, many customers come in looking for planters and other outdoor decor in the spring and summer.
Although three businesses seem like enough to keep the couple busy, when Meagan left for college, Jill found herself with more time on her hands. And, she’s filling that time with a new business venture, Three Dots and a Dash, named for her three sons and her daughter.
Three Dots and a Dash is a scrapbooking/mixed media/card making business. “Anything you can do with paper or canvas…,” Jill explains. Last week, she was hosting a women’s church group that was coming in to learn a card making technique. She offers similar classes for birthday parties, groups or individuals. She also plans to teach a monthly scrapbook layout class. The fees for the classes depend on the project and often range from $10 to $15 each.
Jill says her grandmother taught her to paint when she was 9 or 10 years old, and she started scrapbooking when her children were younger. After amassing a collection of papercraft tools, she decided that it was time to make some money from her hobby and to share her skills with others.
“It’s so interesting to see how creative each person is,” Jill says. “That’s why I like to teach people, to show them how to have fun.”
Sitting in side-by-side desks in the AMC office, it’s obvious that Jill and J.W. also like working with each other. As the dogs wander back and forth between the two desks and customers come in or call, the husband and wife team work on their individual projects. They move seamlessly from one task to another, stopping from time to time to exchange glances.
“We’re together…” J.W. starts a sentence.
“…24 hours a day,” Jill finishes