Darrell Harper's hobby has turned into an amazing side job
by Gary Hanner
Apr 19, 2012 | 4513 views |  1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Owner Darrell Harper sits in one of the many different golf carts they customize.
Owner Darrell Harper sits in one of the many different golf carts they customize.
One of the most unique golf carts they have customized is this eight-passenger for a customer who owns a campground at the Talladega Race track.
One of the most unique golf carts they have customized is this eight-passenger for a customer who owns a campground at the Talladega Race track.
What started out as a hobby for Darrell Harper has now turned into an amazing side job.

Harper and his son Jacob, own Southland Golf Carts. They have been in business since 2002 and are located on Logan Martin Dam Road, about two miles from U.S. 231, in the New London community.

They have been at the present location for about two and a half years.

“Jacob and I just started working on them and customizing them as a hobby,” Harper said. “We started selling them. When we first started, we had three golf carts. Today, we have 150 golf carts. It’s a good business.”

Harper said doing something like this never crossed his mind when he was a small boy growing up.

“I have another full-time job as a salesman for M & R Piping Supply Company,” Harper said. “Jacob does a good job running this business.”

While these carts are called golf carts and are used on the golf course, Harper said golf carts today are used for so many other things.

“Our customers use them for maintenance vehicles in industrial plants, contractors use them on job sites, and they are used around the lake or home,” Harper said. “Many people like to use them just to ride around their property. The baby boomers have been good for us.”

Harper said grandparents enjoy having golf carts for when the grandchildren come over, because it gives them something to ride around in the yard.

“We also do a lot of event rentals,” Harper said. “Events like weddings, and a lot of others. Big churches use golf carts to transport people to and from their vehicles if they had to park a long distance from the church building.”

When asked what is the most unusual request to customize a gold cart, Harper said there have been some pretty wild requests.

“I know the ugliest,” he said. “It was split right down the middle, red on one side, and green on the other. They called it their Bobby LaBonte and Dale Earnhardt Jr. golf cart. It was pretty ugly.”

Harper said they would take a cart that comes in off lease from a course and strip it all the way down to the frame.

“We will do a total refurbish on it,” Harper said. “We will customize it however somebody wants it built. We have two-seaters, four-seaters, six-seaters and eight-seaters. A lot of the churches use the eight-passenger golf carts.”

One of the most unusual carts Harper has built is an eight-passenger for a man who owns a campground at the Talladega track.

“He will use this golf cart to transport his campers to and from the racetrack,” Harper said. “We also do a lot of hunting buggies. A lot of the hunters use golf carts to bring out a deer they have shot and killed that may be deep in the woods. We can do them two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, camo, gas or electric.”

Harper said the typical golf carts they build that need batteries are 48-volt carts, and have four or six-battery configurations.

“An electric golf cart fully charged can last a full day,” Harper said.

“They can charge it up overnight, and be ready to go the next day.” Harper said they carry a full line of parts and accessories. They do repairs, and pretty much can custom build whatever the customer wants.

“We have Alabama and Auburn carts,” he said. “We do a fair amount of those.”

The price range for carts purchased at Southland go from anywhere from $1,500 to $1,800 up to $10,000, depending on what you want and how you want it done.

The two different type models of golf carts Harper has in stock are Club Car and Ez-go.

Business has been good for the Harpers, so much that expansion efforts are on the horizon.

“We have plans to build a new 7,500-square-foot shop and warehouse behind the current building and location,” Harper said. “This time of year is pretty slow, but business will pick up in the spring and summer months. We have been blessed over a period of years. It has worked real well for us, and it is a lot of hard work.”

Harper has a total of four employees, plus himself.

Across Logan Martin Dam Road from Southland Golf Carts, about four blocks away and on the water, is Harper’s repair shop. Once he gets the new building up, everything will be at one location.

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.

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