February 25, 2010
Twenty years ago Jane and Paul Barrentine opened Memphis Performance, a mail-order house that sold high-performance racing automotive performance parts.
The business celebrated its first open house Saturday, an event that drew over 300 guests to tour the BTE facility on Highway 311 near Mt. Pleasant.
Over the years the business has changed, she said.
Then her father, Bill Taylor, in 1995, started Bill Taylor Enterprises, which manufactures racing transmissions and engines and other performance parts. The businesses are combined under one roof at the BTE facility and supplies parts for drag racing, monster trucks, racing boats and racing street cars.
The facility includes about 40,000 square feet and employs 28.
Brandon Barrentine, manager of sales and marketing, said the business is still growing despite concerns about the economy because it enjoys an international market, particularly reaching into English-speaking countries like Australia, England and the Middle East.
“Racing is still huge,” he said. “Our business is still spreading. Countries with expanding economies want these cars if people have expendable income.”
Holly Springs Motor Sports is a big player in the racing market with a power drag race purse this year as high as $50,000, he said. These size purses are normal.
What is it that motivates a person to join the racing competition?
“It is individualism,” Brandon explained.
It is like changing a hair style, fixing up a house - it’s a hobby. Racers want to be fast, consistent and to win.
The American race car culture is evolving and expanding around the world, they said.
“The guys love it,” Jane Barrentine said. “It gets in their blood and it never leaves.”
Racing is a strong motor sport in the South - especially stock cars and drag and mud car racing.
“This is a competition sport - not just for collectors,” Jane said.
Two employees at BTE, Bubba Stanton and Byran Robinson, are world champion drag racers who compete nationally and still race actively.
How does a company know its reach?
People hear about their products by word of mouth, through Internet ads and racing magazines as well as trade show displays.
“When we go to a racing event and we see our BTE logo, we know we have a reach,” Brandon said. “That’s gratifying for us. We get feedback from customers.”
Open house drew visitors from far away, including one transmission specialist who came from New York. Some BTE customers specialize in building engines.
Bill Taylor, the granddaddy of the business, is 79 and semi-retired. He has turned most of the business over to his two daughters, Jane and Debra, and is available to hand out advice when they need it. He was in the business since 1957 in Memphis under the name Coleman-Taylor Transmissions.
He opened another business, TCI (Torque Converter Inc.) and operated it for 28 years before selling out to a group in the Ashland area in 1982.
An innovator, Taylor, while in business with Coleman, built the funny car or King Fish Barracuda that reached speeds in excess of 200 mph and burned nitro fuel mix.
He was also a partner with Joe Lunati in Lunati & Taylor Racing Pistons in Southaven.
Taylor said he can see his daughters and grandchildren keeping the business going for a long time. Debra worked 21 years at TCI and has nine years in at BTE. Jane has been in the business since 1988.
Barbecue lunch for the open house was provided by Corky’s.
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