November 2018

Hunkering Down on Hilton Head: Air Force retiree soars into ownership of full-service moving business

Author: Stephen Prudhomme | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

John Brown has always been a mover and shaker. A native of New York City, he served in the Air Force for 20 years before embarking on a post-military career that included working for the Internal Revenue, the FBI, and as a civil servant for the Air Force.

The moving continues for the Bluffton resident, yet he’s doing it without the world traveling that marked his Air Force career. Operating at the local level, Brown is trucking along in his latest career venture.

Brown, 52, and his wife, Saudah, are owners of Hilton Head College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving; it’s one of 100 franchises in the U.S. and Canada of a company founded in 2004 in Washington, D.C., by Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman and based in Tampa, Fla.

Along with offering standard loading and unloading, the business provides U-Haul moves. Additionally, Brown and his hunks do general labor around the home and remove unwanted items, also known as junk, from residences.

Brown purchased the franchise in 2017 and has eight employees. His fleet includes a 26-foot moving truck and a smaller one to haul junk. Brown describes the business as unique, offering not only moving and junk removal but also help around the home.

“We have a lot of elderly people who can’t do a lot,” Brown said. “We’ll go in their home and change a light bulb or move some furniture. We’re a one-stop shop.”

Brown has discovered the truth of the adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. He hauled off a “high-end stereo system” that he estimates was worth $8,000 to $9,000 from Wexford Plantation. “They were getting rid of it,” said Brown, who gives many of these items to his employees or to charitable organizations such as Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity. “We get a lot of stuff that’s practically new and in excellent shape.”

There’s a musical component to Brown’s job as well. They’ve moved a number of jukeboxes. “It’s interesting to see something that was popular in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said.

Brown’s latest career move was set into motion by a truck and an episode of Shark Tank. But first there was his career in the Air Force and positions with a number of government agencies, culminating with the FBI.

Brown joined the Air Force out of New York City at age 18. “There was a lot of craziness going on in New York City in the ’80s,” he said. “It was a good opportunity to leave the city.”

Brown said he chose the Air Force over the other branches because the recruiter had come to his high school more than recruiters from the other services and people said the Air Force was the best branch of service. He spent his first eight and half years serving as a security policeman including one year in Turkey. He followed that with eight and half years as a recruiter and capped off his Air Force career working as a supervisor for the Air Force Family Support Center, which offers assistance to personnel and their families. Brown retired as a senior master sergeant.

Saudah also retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service. She and Brown met at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey as enlistees and married in 1993. They have three sons. Saudah left the service after three years to earn her nursing degree. She returned as a first lieutenant and served another 17 years, retiring as a major and flight commander of a 45-man clinic at Moody Air Force Base. Along with the moving company, Saudah also owns an interior decorating business.

Retirement from the Air Force didn’t mean Brown was going to stop working. He worked as a civil servant for the Air Force for 18 months before going to Internal Revenue. He remained there for two and half years. Brown returned to contracting work with the Air Force, doing that for a year before joining the FBI.

“That was the best job I ever had,” said Brown, whose various jobs over five years with the federal agency included criminal investigation. “I worked directly with the agents on cases involving violent crimes against children. That was a good, worthy cause and a fulfilling assignment.”

It was while he was working with the FBI in Washington, D.C. that Brown happened to spot a College Hunks moving truck. “It looked interesting,” he said. His interest was further piqued when he saw the company owners on an episode of Shark Tank.

“I liked the way they built leaders—their core values,” Brown said. “They mentor their employees. I wanted to be a mentor and make a difference with young guys. It was my lifelong dream to be an entrepreneur.”

That dream became a reality when Brown and his wife bought the Hilton Head franchise last year. Having grown tired of sitting behind a desk while working at the FBI, he longed for a job where there was more activity and found it with his current position.

“I wanted to be more out and about,” Brown said. “I’m working 14 to 15 hours a day, six days a week. I’m hands on and an operations manager. It’s more difficult than I thought, but I enjoy it. I wasn’t going to be 52 and do nothing.”

Brown’s employees are right there with him and know all about working long hours. When they feel their hard work is recognized and appreciated, however, the time goes by more quickly and is more enjoyable.

“I really love working here,” said office manager Habibah Ismael. “The guys are the age of my grandchildren. I get a kick out of how they interact and evolve on the job. The employees are happy and they, in turn, want to make the employer happy. John’s an all-round good guy, but he’s not a weak guy.”

Although Brown does employ some muscular college guys as movers, the H.U.N.K.S. in the company name alludes to character traits rather than bulging biceps.

“It stands for honest, uniform, nice, knowledgeable, and service,” Brown explained. “That’s what we all live by and the company motto we instill in our employees.”

For more information, call (843) 816-7179, email john.brown@chhj.com or visit online at www.collegehunkshaulingjunk.com/locations/sc/hilton-head.


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