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Couple realizes dream in opening Express Oil Change and Service Center in Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — Inside Rosa Oswalt's office desk is a small book with a flowered cover. Near the front is a prayer in black ink and neat cursive.

Lord,

You have assigned me my portion and my cup;

You have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16: 5-6

Rosa, 50, and her husband, Joe Oswalt, 55, are beginning their sixth week as owners of the new Express Oil Change and Service Center franchise just east of the intersection of S Broad Street and Cortez Boulevard, on the south side of Brooksville.

With high unemployment, a recession and frequent going-out-of-business sales, a new shop is a bright spot in Hernando County.

And for the Oswalts, who planned and saved for 20 years, it's a dream realized.

"We didn't have a ton of money," Rosa said. "It's just a dollar on top of a dollar."

They lived frugally, but never felt deprived.

"We agreed on the basics," said Joe. "We're going to tithe back to God, we're going to save, we're going to pay our bills and we're going to blow the rest."

The Oswalts still have a 1988 Ford Crown Victoria. They brought Little Joe home from the hospital in it.

"It has 126,000 miles and is clean as a whistle," said Joe.

Little Joe is now 17.

Beginning in 1990, when Rosa and Joe married, he worked his way up the career ladder, becoming general manager of operations with Mineral Resource Technologies, a Cemex company.

His work took them to 13 states. They married in Oklahoma. Lived in Minnesota and California. They discovered Express Oil Change while living in Missouri, and fell in love with Florida during his last professional stop in Crystal River.

In each place, they would find a pastor who was right and continue to live their faith and their values.

"We never got into big, fancy vacations," Joe said. "We've got a half-dozen DVDs; no CDs. Work was like our play. It was our family activity."

The Oswalts work well together.

"He's extroverted and Andy Griffith good-looking," Rosa said, adding that a friend once described him that way. "He does the big-picture kinds of things, and I do the details."

At Express Oil, they have four full-time staffers and are looking to hire another service technician.

"We've had a strong start," Joe said, referring to the influx of customers. "They can keep me out there sweating all day long."

The couple looked at franchises for a long time before deciding on Express Oil about two years ago.

They liked the company's history and values. And oil changes never go out of style.

Then Express Oil had to decide on them.

"They were a good fit for us," said Kent Feazell, senior vice president of development for Express Oil Change, which was founded in Birmingham, Ala., and now has about 170 locations in eight Southern states. "They were very inquisitive and very honest."

The Oswalts pulled their savings out of the faltering stock market and took the plunge.

"We're investing in ourselves and in Brooksville instead of someone else and someplace else," Joe said.

While about 50 percent of new businesses fail within the first five years, since 1996 Express Oil has had a 99 percent survival rate with stores built from the ground up, Feazell said.

Part of the trick is making sure franchise owners have values that are congruent with the company's.

"(Rosa and Joe) really want to be part of the community," said Feazell. "It's part of their belief system that aligns with our model."

"We're taking a chance on Brooksville, and Brooksville is taking a chance on us," said Rosa. "We're grateful for that."

On a recent morning, a car pulled up. Time for an oil change.

Joe was up and out the door, off to greet a new face.

Back in the office, a Bible rested on a shelf amid brand new marketing and training binders. A soft yellow ribbon marked a page.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at slmarshall.sptimes @gmail.com.

Couple realizes dream in opening Express Oil Change and Service Center in Brooksville 07/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2009 7:49pm]
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