Ted Atwell of The Outpost

About the Former Manager and Operator  – Theodore Atwell

My name is Ted Atwell, and I have lived my entire life in the St. Louis area.  

I was born totally blind, and from my earliest memory my parents George and Virginia Atwell never allowed me to use the phrase, “I can’t!”  For example, when I was 3 years old I was given a 2-wheel bicycle without training wheels and expected to learn how to ride it.  Although my legs were too short to touch the ground, I would walk it to the porch and climb onto the seat, then ride it down the hill of our back yard and run into the fence to stop myself.  

That was how I learned to balance riding a bike, and eventually I developed an interest in mini-bikes and motorcycles.  At the age of 12 my dad gave me a Honda 50, and I rode that little trail bike around our fenced back yard…..I learned how the engine worked and did my own modifications and repairs.  Riding in the yard was monotonous, and naturally I strayed occasionally into the larger world.  At16 I was stopped by the local police riding  down the street on a Honda 70 Mini-Trail bike.  The officer knew me but couldn’t condone my riding without a license and blind as a bat, so he made me walk the motorcycle home!

I attended night classes at O’Fallon Technical School for small engine repair, and this was one of my first battles involving my blindness because they did not want to accept me into their program.  They believed it was too dangerous for blind people to repair small engines, but they finally accepted me and I did very well.  Since I had been working on small engines on my own for years, I had already learned a lotof what they were teaching in class.  

In about 10th or 11th grade I sold a mini-bike to a man who happened to be the husband of my bus driver, and he asked me if I had ever wanted a job after high school he was a supervisor at a machine shop and would hire me.  I started working at Lincoln Engineering as a machinist two weeks after graduating from Missouri School for the Blind, and although I was repairing lawn mowers at my house I continued working as a machinist to pay my bills….I was a newlywed and after the first year we had a baby.  But I never lost touch with my dream of owning my own business.

In 1983 I opened my own lawn mower and small engine repair shop, North County Small Engine on WestFlorrisant in Jennings.  I closed the shop after 5 years but learned a lot about running a business, and hoped it would not be my last.  During the next several years I earned a living repairing lawn mowers at my house, working for Sears repairing small engines, telemarketing, and devoting a lot of my time to raising my 4 beautiful children.

I have a friend who worked at a boring job, and he and I would talk on our Nextel phones a lot.  Back before current technology for blind people, he would read the newspaper to me and we would dissect the articles and have a few laughs.  One day we saw something that we both thought would be a fun andpotentially profitable venture, and so together we opened the Outpost Bait and Tackle Shop.  

After a couple of years we found out the business was not profitable enough to support two families, so he returned to his previous full time job and sold his half of the business to me.  Since that time I have been running the bait shop myself, and I am interested in opening another shop outside the conservation arein the near future.  

One of my passions has been customer service, which I believe is sadly waning in today’s retail and corporate world.  I love interacting with people, and I only hire and retain employees who feel the same way and treat the customers right.  There are other bait shops in the area but we have maintained a verylarge and loyal customer base with superior products, good prices and mostly friendly service.

I don’t look at my blindness as a handicap or an inconvenience……but as a blessing.  I have had a happy and successful life, raised four terrific kids, worked steadily, owned a couple of businesses, and I anticipate even more successes to come.  I enjoy camping, floating, bass fishing, going to auctions, buying and selling just about anything, I am a ham radio operator, and I still enjoy repairing small engines.  God has been good to me, and I am excited about the future.

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