Around 40 years ago, in the Jacksonville neighborhood of Five Points, David Kanupp was a 13-year-old kid in with a bicycle who like to hang out at Benny Wells’s new Shell station. “I had a mini-bike and lived nearby. He’d ask me to clean the bathrooms, pump gas, stuff like that. I started doing working in the summer and when school was out.”
David’s break came when Benny had to have surgery. “He had to go into the hospital for a couple of days, and asked me to run that station. This was in the summer, so I worked all day. When he came back, I stayed around and got a work permit. I’d work there every afternoon after school until they closed.”
David was hooked on cars by then. Benny moved his Shell station to Avondale, taking his young mechanic and pump jockey with him. Three years later, Benny gave up the Shell station. “He started an auto repair business with me as his partner. We called it B&D Automotive, after Benny and David.”
So David Kanupp − fresh out of high school and still a teenager − became co-owner of a business. He’s still at the location where the business started, on San Juan Avenue near Blanding Boulevard. Ten years ago, Benny Wells retired.
“He made out a plan so I could buy him out, something that worked for both of us. I still have customers who came to the old Shell station, and their kids and grandkids, even some great-grandkids − generation after generation."
David doesn’t advertise, and he has minimal signage on his concrete block building. “We have all we can handle through word-of-mouth. It’s from taking care of customers.”
His son, Bobby, started working with the business a few years ago, and David is slowly turning the business over to him. B&D has some climate control in the front desk room, where David spends much of his time, but the garage is very hot in the summer, and bone-chilling on cold days. David looks forward to spending less time there.
“I’m not a retire kind of person,” he says. “I enjoy the work, working on the cars, solving problems. My son’s taking a bigger role in business, definitely. But as long as I’m physically able to do the work, I’ll still be here.”