June 11, 2006 – One day in 1984, Clyde Rawlins returned home from a business trip to find his bags had been misplaced. He tried to make arrangements to have them delivered but discovered that there was no service. "I told the airline guy to deliver the bags," says Rawlins, "but he said the airline had no delivery service. He would have to have a taxi do it."
Although his luggage had been lost, Rawlins' true calling had been found. "That gave me an idea," Rawlins said. With little more than that bit of inspiration, Rawlins started what is today a 22-year-old family business with six handsome vans and offices on St. Thomas, St. Croix, Tortola and Virgin Gorda.
Rawlins is bolstered by the skills he picked up in school. He has a bachelor's degree from Tuskegee University and a master's degree from Mississippi State University both in public policy and administration.
It has not been an easy ride. Rawlins credits his friends with getting him started. "I didn't even have a truck," he says. "A friend leased me a truck for $109 a month, and I got a little booth at the old Harry S. Truman hangar at the old airport. At first, I just had the truck and a scooter for delivery service."
Rawlins soon found his idea filled a much-needed void. It was the needed service he had envisioned when there was almost no delivery service on the island. The company evolved from a basic delivery service to become a courier service, providing customs clearance with off-island services, cargo, vehicle clearance and baggage. Rush It is the agent for LIAT Airlines QuikPack cargo service, which serves the entire Caribbean.
In fact, there is a plaque from LIAT on the wall honoring Rush It's service for 2003, as well as another award from the U.S. Postal Service, honoring the company as Express Mail Service of the year for 1990.
When you walk in the Rush It office today, operations manager Clarice Kuntz greets you. She is easygoing, at home in the job she has had for the last 20 years. Then, there is vice president Tracy Rawlins, Clyde's wife, who joined the company a couple years after Kuntz.
She says she helped lay some important groundwork for the company prior to joining its workforce. "I was working for Austin Advertising," says Rawlins, "and Bob Austin was trying to get some documents out on time. I told him that my fiancée had just started a delivery service, but he said there was no reason to use him." But, she says, "a couple weeks later, he called me over and said he wanted to use Clyde, and 20 years later, we still have his account."
In those early days, Tracy Rawlins recalls, "The seaplane wasn't operating as it should have been. St. Croix and Tortola had a need for delivery service. So, we began our offices on the other islands, including Virgin Gorda. FedEx and UPS received cargo in our warehouse before getting their own cargo areas. We went from courier to storage and cargo services."
While Rush It is definitely a V.I. success story, there have been bumps in the road – and one especially big bump.
About three years ago, Clyde Rawlins was diagnosed with a heart condition, which required a move to Atlanta, Ga., for treatment. Now the family – Clyde and Tracy have two sons: Kelly, now in college, and Travis, a high school student – lives there for the time being.
Tracy Rawlins recalls the circumstances of the move. Speaking from Atlanta (where both Tracy and Clyde spoke for this interview), she says, "The fact is, that when Clyde took sick, a stateside company wanted to buy the business. They figured I couldn't run it."
And that was all Tracy had to hear. "I told him 'Sorry, this is a family business, and we're not going to sell it,'" she says. "Because Clarice, Joanne Parker and Liburd are so loyal, we kept it. They said they were going to work. They told me, 'We think we can do it, we can operate the business.'"
Tracy says, "They all know the business, and they are capable of running it. They are doing their very best, and we are very appreciative."
Rush It is a family business, and that has been its strength. The Rush It family includes comptroller Joanne Cooper, Tracy's younger sister. Looking up from her books, Cooper gives a big smile. "I simply love my job," she says. And it shows.
The rest of the family – the Rush It family, that is – comprises courier and assistant manager Brisbane Parker Drew, known as "Parker," who has been with Rush It for 15 years; and courier Angel Liburd, a 10-year employee.
The office is busy. Kuntz tries to make time for an interview, between running out to the warehouse to check on a delivery, handling customer questions at the counter and the demanding task of answering the phones. She is unperturbed.
Kuntz had years of counter experience before coming to Rush It.
Both Kuntz and Tracy Rawlins were longtime Antilles Airboats and V.I. Seaplane Shuttle employees.
"This is a breeze, by comparison," Kuntz laughs. "No passengers screaming at us, no weather delays."
Ronnie Lewis, a young employee, runs in to ask Kuntz how to do something. He is short with curly hair and a huge smile. Kuntz is indulgent with him. "We have Ronnie and Jamal Wesselhof," she says. "They are both 18, and they both graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School last year," she says. "It's like God sent them to us. They aren't like a lot of kids today. They fit in like our grandchildren."
Kuntz speaks with a low, well-tempered voice, a voice known outside delivery circles. She has sung alto with the Voices of Love choir for more years than she can remember. The group is always one of the first to sing out at Emancipation Garden on Christmas morning.
Looking around her familiar office, Kuntz reflects on her 20-year career. "I wouldn't use the word 'challenge,'" she says. "It's never been that. It's just what experiences you have every day. You never know what will come up. It's not a challenge; it's a delight."
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