The Retail Merchants Association held its annual banquet and live auction Tuesday when Garland Ricketts of Oval Engineering was recognized as the Retailer of the Year.

Although not a retailer, Ricketts has long been a member and avid supporter of the Retail Merchants Association.

After graduating college in 1966, he spent the next 10 years moving around from Richmond to Newport News and South Carolina while pursuing his career in mechanical engineering and his hobby of building race cars. 

In 1976 he returned to Halifax County to work at Westinghouse, and he opened a machine shop with the focus on building race cars. This first location was in the second floor of the Coca-Cola distribution building near the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and Constitution Square in South Boston.

At that time he employed one machinist, Ed Saunders, at the business he named Oval Engineering because of the oval track stock cars he designed and built. 

In 1977 he built and opened the current location, across Constitution Square from the original location. At that time he broadened from race car fabrication to machining of custom parts and tooling for area businesses. 

Over the years he expanded his employee base to two full-time machinists and a part time delivery driver. He has employed approximately a dozen skilled machinists in the 42 years he operated the business.

He also expanded the building by adding two bays toward Broad Street. Thousands of precision machines parts have been fabricated to keep local industries (and hobbyists) in working order. 

After 42 years of daily operation of Oval Engineering, Ricketts has transitioned into retirement and sold the business to a trusted employee and machinist, Josh Garber. Garber continues to operate Oval Machining in the same location.

Ricketts currently serves as a member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors representing his constituents in ED-7.

Also during Tuesday night’s awards banquet, members of the entire RMA board and its executive board were recognized.

Comprising the executive board are Tim Moore, president; Emily Powell, vice president; Betty Jones, secretary; and Ramona Bowen, treasurer.

Following the awards presentation, Charles Anderson served as auctioneer for the live auction with all proceeds going to the RMA’s scholarship fund.