Tyler Hittner, 22, doesn't let his disability get the best of him. Despite the fact that he was bullied as a child for having to use a walker in order to be mobile, he operates his own detailing company, RT Detailing, as well as works at his family-owned automotive repair shop, The Battery Shop at 2411 Post Road.
"Through high school, I was picked on a lot," said Hittner, who graduated from Coventry High School in 2009. He suffered a fever when he was about a year old, which led to a buildup of fluid around his brain, and ultimately his disability. "They used to take my walker away from me. It was messed up."
But Hittner has taken the high road, and is driving toward success. These days, he's happy he and his friend Ryan O'Rourke, 21, are able to make extra cash through RT Detailing, which they named by combining their first initials.
They started detailing vehicles professionally about a year ago after cleaning a friend's car in the driveway of Hittner's Coventry home.
"Before we knew it, we were handing out business cards at car shows," Hittner said, noting that their prices range from about $130 to $195, depending upon the type of vehicle.
Now, they operate the business from The Battery Shop. To make an appointment, call 255-5612.
Not only does Hittner work with O'Rourke, he works alongside his family at the Shop. There, he has been a service advisor since he was 15, helping customers, setting up appointments and ordering parts.
For him, there's no place he'd rather be.
"I like being around cars," Hittner said. "And driving gives me a sense of mobility that I've never had."
Because he can't operate a vehicle with his feet, Hittner had custom-made hand-operated pedals installed in his 2000 Chevy S10, a small pickup truck. He's grateful to Custom Adaptive Systems, Inc. in Coventry for removing the steering wheel and mounting the appropriate parts.
Also, he and his friends spent about two years and "way too much money" re-building the rest of the truck, from the body to the seats. He doesn't look at it as work; he looks at it as "fun."
"I love my truck," he said.
He also loves Chevy, as he recently got the Chevy logo tattooed on his right shoulder. His father, Victor, is a "Chevy guy" as well, as are Hittner's favorite NASCAR drivers, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
In addition to being around cars, Hittner enjoys being around his family. Aside from his father, his mother, grandfather and aunt work at the shop, too.
His family acquired the business in 1978 from the Seltzer family, who opened the shop as Mule Battery in 1916. Hittner's aunt, Liesa Quinn, who does automotive repairs, said having Hittner there makes her and the rest of the family proud.
"He's the coolest," she said of Hittner. "He's the third generation out of our group."
Hittner said it pleases him to help keep the business going. It also makes him happy that he was able to turn his deep passion for cars into becoming a small business owner.
"I am very determined and very proud of all the work it took to make my business what it is today," he said.
For more information about The Battery Shop, call 737-8845.