It’s one of Rytech’s newest franchises and it’s defined by one word, “energy!” Seventy one year old owner “Sparky” Witte is a high-spirited people person with loads of enthusiasm, family, and talent.
Prospects for success are as substantial as his reputation in this bustling coastal community.
Charleston, named the “No. 1 Small City in the U.S.” by Conde’ Nast Traveler for the tenth consecutive year, is a great place to live and open a Rytech franchise. It’s the largest city in South Carolina and, when you include the entire county of Charleston, the population boosts to 370,000. Nearby counties of Berkeley and Dorchester push the total prospects to 800,000 or more. Rytech’s Charleston franchise includes Berkeley County and servicing from the ocean west to Summerville and south as far as the cities of Ravenell and Kiawah.
Having lived near South Carolina’s coastline his entire life this is a venue owner Sparky Witte is remarkably familiar with. He graduated from Moultrie High School in Charleston, having set the school high jump record at 6’4” while being only 5’8″ tall. This, before attending Palmer College located downtown. And that, he says, “was after I got out of the Navy and came back to Charleston in 1973.”
Contrary to what many presume, Sparky has never been an electrician. But…he is a self-described spark plug. “I went to work in construction as a helper for about six months and decided I needed to learn how to build a house, so I started my own company… Witte Construction.” And that sparked a lifelong successful business. “I built ten homes right off the bat and did repair work in my spare time. I built my own house for $40k in 1982.”
Maybe not an electrician, but… one heck of a surfer and one of the sports’ east coast pioneers. With plenty of beaches nearby, a nationally known shoreline, a select few dedicated locals became famous for “hanging ten” on the old-fashioned “big boards” during the 1960’s. In fact, Sparky was one of the original ten surfers that put the Isle of Palms on the surfing map in 1964. “I had a 9’ 6” Mako surfboard” he recalls. “We were the first surfing generation.”
Logical to ask why a committed surfer and successful contractor moved into water remediation at age 71. “After 41 years of construction I thought it was pretty cool.” And, smiling from ear to ear… “I feel like I stepped right into a gold mine.”
Besides, Sparky has more energy than most half his age. “I truly am a sparkplug, packed with energy. In school I was one of those ADHD kids–they didn’t know what to do with me, so they just stood me out in the hall.”
This opportunity was one of those typical Rytech family things. Daughter Liza Hendrix works for Rytech corporate in the MDS Unit. “Daddy” she said, “you need to get into this business so I can take it over.” Meetings were set up and papers signed last November 2020.
“Hopefully, I can build it up so when Liza is ready there’ll be enough business and money for her to run it.”
No employees yet but youngest daughter Charlotte Schronce (38) is the tech and the Operations Manager having quickly earned IICRC’s WRG certification. “We’re newbies just figuring it all out.” Sparky admits. “We’ve only had a total of eleven jobs so far, but.. we always go together, help each other out and work on MICA. Corporate reviews what we do–we make adjustments and learn.” Later, oldest daughter, Liza (41), will run the office.
Fact is, corporate invests heavily in the success of each franchise. “The first week I opened” Sparky remembers, “David Ayers came to help me set up the equipment. While he was here we got an assignment, so he went with us on our very first job. A pipe burst flooding the entire downstairs carpet, about $6,000. They were genuinely nice people. A former Marine. We got a great review without asking. I learned to make clients feel comfortable and to tell them were gonna take care of them, all while wearing my Rytech clothes.”
But as they say, one job, (even eleven jobs) does not a franchise make. That’s where Sparky’s energy comes in. “I’m out promoting myself all week, every week. A friend is helping promote Rytech to hotels and property management firms. While Mount Pleasant has four embedded competitors, my message is simple and compelling… ‘JUST GIVE ME A SHOT!’
It’s genuinely like a family helping each other out. “I like driving my truck around, I’m so proud, I get a lot of smiles and waves.” And Amber Payne with corporate is there to help. “Right now she’s my marketing girl and we talk every week and have a Zoom meeting. I love the support from team Rytech, they call me right back. It’s a great fit for me”
Speaking of family, Sparky’s clan is impressive. In addition to daughters Charlotte Schronce and Liza his son, Sparky Jr. (42) lives in Austin and has a girl and a boy, Evelyn (12) and Keen (9). Charlotte has two boys Van (5), and Asa (3) who was born on the 4th of July. Liza Hendrix has two daughters, Madelyn (8) and Anhalise (12).
Then, there’s the love of his life, Teasie (pronounced TZ). Sparky met her while in charge of aquatics at the local YMCA. “It was small town love at first site” he exclaims. “I came home, told my dad I think I’ve met the girl I wanna marry and found out she was the daughter of his golf partner.”
Hobbies? “I’ve always been a photographer; so was my dad, and so was my grandfather. I was in charge of catching the bulbs that popped out of the old Kodaks.”
Church? Sparky and Teasie and the local family are highly active. Since 1951 they’ve been contributing, along with 3,000 other members, to the missions of St. Andrews Mount Pleasant Anglican Church. Sparky’s an involved leader in what he calls “a loving community of believers. We’ve been on many mission trips to Honduras and other countries too.”
In fact, over a 2 year period, for one week each, the church traveled to parts of Mississippi 15 times, to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We built a 700 sq. ft. house there for a mother and her two kids” he says.
Retirement? Chances are zero to none, at least for now. “I’m too hyper to retire!”
“In 12 months I’ll have a crew I can depend on” he says. “Right now I’m hands on and retirement is not in the cards.”
Dear Sparky: Welcome aboard the Rytech family wagon and good luck on your newest adventure.
Here’s hoping the rest of us can keep up with you!