Drivers on U.S. 29 whipped past the building now housing Cub Cadet Culpeper for years and watched it rot and slowly sink beneath a lawn camouflaged by a year’s worth of overgrowth.

But Dave Carter saw a chance to continue a legacy and couldn’t pass it up.

“You don’t open a business at 65 unless you have a reason,” said Carter, owner of Cub Cadet Culpeper. "Mine was to carry on the name of Cub Cadet and the name of Mr. (M.E.) ‘Buddy’ Rudy. His tradition is what we have here."

“For a little fellow, he left big footsteps,” Carter continued, describing Rudy, who owned Culpeper Motor Corp. for more than 50 years, as one of the hardest working men he has ever met.

Carter took the run-down shack and turned it into one of the top Cub Cadet dealers in the country. It was also named the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce’s most improved business location of the year.

“To me this award is very important,” Carter said. “It recognizes someone for their effort. Someone recognized what we were doing here and thought enough to honor us for the work we put into getting this business off the ground.”

Getting to work

The one-story brick building now housing tractors, lawn mowers and other lawn equipment has quite a history, according to Carter.

He estimated it was built about 45 years ago, and has been home to a laundry list of businesses and groups: A gardening center, a Case tractor dealership, a motorcycle dealership, an outlet store, a nightclub and a church.

When Carter took over the lease in Oct. 2009, the property was in disrepair. Portions of the ceiling were caved in, the roof leaked so bad water stood on the floor and the mildew and mold were so stifling the last church that met there had to stop because members were getting sick.

“I knew I had my work cut out for me,” Carter said. "But you have to envision what is going to be, not what is.”

Cub Cadet Culpeper opened officially in Dec. 2009 with a pristine showroom displaying different models of just about every piece of lawn equipment imaginable, a precisely ordered parts department and a multi-bay garage.

“We’re here for one reason,” Carter said. “We have more than 1,000 regular customers who need service, especially this time of year. Our doors are always open.”

 Honoring a mentor

Also on display in the showroom is a row of gleaming plaques inscribed with “Top-100 Seller.” They aren’t Carter’s alone, though. They’re honors he earned working with his mentor M.E. Rudy.

“He is one of the finest people I have ever worked for,” said Carter, a lifelong Culpeper resident and former Investigator Lt. for the Culpeper Town Police and the Culpeper County Sheriff’s office.

“He would do anything to go out of his way to help a customer,” Carter continued. “He treated people like people, instead of numbers. You have to keep to those old standards and understand what people want and what they can afford.”

Carter hasn’t quite eclipsed the Retailer of the Year honor he and Rudy earned in 2009, but he said the Chamber’s most improved business location award is yet another step toward honoring a great man.

“I’ve seen him take money out of his own pocket to help people,” Carter said. “The people right here in this community are the most important people in the world to me, and just like Mr. Rudy, I’m here to serve them.”