Barry Ewing, owner of Eagle Sportschairs, started building wheelchairs in 1979, after his brother-in-law was hurt in a car accident. His brother, a paraplegic, wanted to play sports despite his challenges, and Ewing jumped at the opportunity.
At that time, there were no sports wheelchairs. Now, his company is internationally recognized.
Ewing designs chairs for the Paralympics, which begin on Aug. 29 in London. Cassy Mitchell, 31, will represent Team USA in the wheelchair track and field event, and as a paracycler. She uses Ewing’s chairs, as does Tatyana McFadden, a six-time Paralympic medalist.
Soon, Ewing will head to South America to design chairs for the disabled population there. He also builds wheelchairs for Wounded Warriors and partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Eagle Sports Chairs designs and builds around 400 chairs a year from scratch in the workshop behind Ewing's house.
“My father bought 50 acres back in ’44,” he said. “He paid $1,000 for it at the courthouse.”
Born and bred in Snellville, he plans on keeping the operation on his family's land. He employs around 10 people who come in from all over Atlanta, including welders and master craftsmen.
No wheelchairs are kept in stock since each one is built for a specific person.
Ewing has served as the equipment manager for Team USA and has traveled all over the world. This year, his son, Jonathan, will serve instead. Although Jonathan now owns an Italian restaurant in Milledgeville, he is still involved in the family business.
“He grew up while I was doing all this,” said Ewing. “He went to a lot of the events.”