An army veteran has opened a new UPS store in Brookhaven, hoping to pave the way for others to do the same.
Derrick Long, 49, opened the doors to his UPS store franchise on June 28 after moving down from his native New York.
“I just always liked Atlanta,” Long said during an interview at his store at 3408 Clairmont Road. “It’s a southern city, but it has such a big city charm to it.”
Long retired from the service in September 2020, after spending just over 23 years in the United States Army. He retired with the rank of colonel and worked primarily in the intelligence field in special operations.
The son of parents who worked in New York law enforcement and the oldest of eight siblings, Long said the military felt like the right path for him. Throughout his career, he lived in different places around the world, from Monterey, Calif. to Korea.
“I just had an inclination to serve,” he said. “It just kind of melded with my personality. It worked for me, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn about myself, see the world, but also serve.”
As the oldest, Long said he’s always had an inclination to take care of his people. That tendency followed him through his military career, and continues to be something he strives for running his UPS store.
“People depend on me for their livelihood. Even though it’s not a life or death situation, it’s a livelihood situation,” Long said. “Having a successful business means that you have to make sure they’re successful, because they have family to take care of.”
Starting his own business wasn’t easy, and required a lot of help from different people. He became aware of UPS as an option through his sergeant major, who retired right before he did. The sergeant major and his wife had opened up a UPS store in the Seattle area, so Long decided to look into it for himself.
It was a natural fit. At the time he decided to open a store, Long said UPS was offering incentives for veterans who wanted to franchise. Just this year, UPS waived the $29,950 franchise fee for the first 10 eligible U.S. veterans to qualify between April 29 and Nov. 11. The whole application and opening process took Long about a year.
His sister, Mechele Days, also moved down to Atlanta from Philadelphia to offer her support. She now serves as his operations manager.
“Without her help, this would not be possible,” Long said. “She’s amazing with people, with management, and helping me get organized and getting us up and running.”
Finding the right people and employees to help support him has been imperative to Long’s business strategy. In his hiring practices, he has tried to reflect Brookhaven’s diverse population – one of the aspects of the city that drew him to it in the first place. He has employees that speak Spanish, and even one that speaks Arabic.
“A lot of times, people don’t feel comfortable,” he said. “But if you have someone that can speak their language, understand their culture, they’re a bit more open about what they need.”
Long also said he wants to make sure that other veterans, especially minorities and women, are aware of the opportunities that await them after service. He said he hopes to continue to open more stores, but the most important thing to him is educating others.
“We kind of think we’re limited in our options,” he said about veterans looking for a path after the military. “I find that to be the opposite. There are businesses out here that need our skill set. And you can start your own business, like I did.”