From drug dealer to business owner

“I’m out,” Keith Guyton said into the phone. “Come on over and I’ll hook you up,” said the voice on the other end. “No,” said Keith. “I’m out . . . out of the business.” That was 20 years ago, and the business was drug dealing.

Keith could have blamed his parents, his upbringing, the people with whom he associated, or any number of other things for the dangerous life he was leading. “I was on a very different path,” he says, “a path that even landed me in jail for 14 months.” Unfortunately, spending time behind bars was not a life-changing event for Keith. “It just made me feel cooler and more powerful on the street,” he says. The ability to make money—a lot of money—dealing drugs is what kept him “in the business,” even when his conscience was telling him to get out.

“One day,” Keith says, “God’s voice got too loud, and I flushed all of it [cocaine] down the toilet. That’s when I called my supplier and told him I was out.” Although the demon on his other shoulder tempted him with thoughts of drugs and money, Keith stayed strong. In fact, he took “strong” to a whole new level.

“Basically, I traded one addiction for another,” Keith explains. His new addiction was bodybuilding. As a personal fitness trainer in Houston, Keith began competing in, and often winning, local and national bodybuilding competitions. “The best part about that,” he says,” is that I met my wife, Mauri, who was also a personal trainer at the time.”

Mauri’s father was not sure about the man she wanted to marry, but Keith understood the man’s reservations. “I was a former drug dealer, 11 years older than Mauri, and had four kids already,” he says. “If I were her dad, I’d have been concerned, too.” Even so, the couple married at Lakewood Church in Houston and now has three children together. Eventually, Keith won his father-in-law’s affection. “He loves me,” he says, grinning.

When Keith and Mauri decided to move north, Keith planned to enter the real estate business, but he felt drawn to the automotive industry. Seeing an online ad for a service advisor at the Christian Brothers Automotive franchise in Round Rock, he applied and was surprised to be offered the position. “I’m always up front about my past,” Keith says, “but I’m never sure how people will react. Chip Jennings, the owner of the Round Rock shop, was gracious enough to give me a chance.”

Keith worked hard at what he thought were realistic career goals. “I thought I’d like to be the service manager one day,” he says humbly. That opportunity came about two years later, when Christian Brothers Automotive added to its 150+ nationwide franchise by building a new shop in Hutto. Keith applied for the job and, again, took a chance by telling his story during the interview. “I interviewed with the owner, Jonathan Carr, who is one of the company founder’s sons,” he says. “I was really putting myself out there.” Keith was offered the job on the spot even though the shop wouldn’t open for another three months.

“I knew within about 30 seconds that Keith was a good person,” says Jonathan. Keith laughs. “I kept asking Jonathan if there was anything I should be doing before the shop opened, and if he was sure I was going to be paid.” In 2010 Jonathan sold the Hutto shop and purchased the Christian Brothers franchise in Georgetown, bringing Keith with him. “I liked working with him every day,” says Jonathan, “and I thought the more established Georgetown shop would be more likely to help Keith reach the potential I knew he had.”

Little did Keith know then that his career was just getting off the ground. He continued to work hard and impress his boss, who suggested he participate in the company’s Future Franchisee Academy. “We were talking about Keith taking over the Georgetown store right at the same time my brother, Don, was developing the academy,” says Johnathan. Keith began in the academy’s program but was concerned when he was called into the company founder’s office on the first day. “I walked into Mark Carr’s office, and Jonathan was there, too,” he recalls. “I wondered what was going on, since Jonathan and I never left the Georgetown shop at the same time.”

Keith’s concern quickly turned to surprise and excitement when the Carrs officially said they wanted him to be the new owner of the Georgetown shop. “I was overwhelmed,” he says. “It’s really an amazing opportunity, one I never imagined I’d have.”

The Carrs were equally excited. “He’s going to do great . . . probably better than me,” says Jonathan. “I feel privileged to know Keith. Seeing his unique perspective on life has made me more appreciative of mine.”

On hearing the good news about getting the Georgetown shop, Keith and Mauri, who had been living in Taylor, quickly purchased a home in Georgetown. Mauri couldn’t believe she was back in her hometown. “She’s so excited now to have our kids in the same school district where she grew up,” says Keith.

As the Guyton family adjusts to their new home and the January 2017 issue of Georgetown View is delivered to mailboxes, Keith is becoming one of Georgetown’s new business owners and once again feels blessed: “I hope now to pay that blessing forward to my customers and the Georgetown community.”

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