NORTH ADAMS — On June 4, Mister Tire owner Larry Davis will close the business he operated for 38 years.
The decision was not an easy one, he said during an interview.
"You know we have a saying," Davis said. "It's not the age, it's the mileage. And we've got some miles."
Family health issues, challenges with hiring qualified workers and changes in the industry led Davis to a decision to close, he said. He is optimistic that a buyer will reopen the tire sales and service business on 558 Curran Highway.
"I still have good hopes about a purchase and keeping things intact," he said.
There are three possible buyers for the business, Davis said. One prospective owner said he would try to keep the existing employees on if a sale goes through, he added.
The business employs eight full-time workers. Among them are Davis' three children, who are not interested in remaining in the business, he said. Another shop employee has a job lined up. Davis said he is trying to help the rest of the employees get jobs.
Hiring has been a challenge, he said
"We can't just put somebody on a car without being sure that they know what they need to know," Davis said. "Cars are more sensitive to being mishandled now."
Calls to the Charles H. McCann Technical School and other sources have not led to hires, he said.
Davis followed his father's footsteps when he opened the city business in 1978.
"We had a farm in Plainfield, a potato farm and we called it Mister Potato," he said. "Our potatoes were in State Line potato chips, and some went to Campbell's soups. When my father got into the tire business in 1971, we went from Mister Potato to Mister Tire."
Davis spent weekends as a teenager working for his father.
"That's when I got my fingers into the business," he said. "I learned this business from the bottom up and it changes daily. It's not a couple tire irons and a hammer."
The original site fronted Coury's junkyard. Davis built the current site and moved there in 1992.
A yearly seasonal spectacle occurs at the shop when the first snowfall is predicted. Procrastinating drivers line up in a seemingly never-ending succession waiting for their turn to have snow tires put on their vehicles.
"When I hear that first forecast ... I can remember October evenings watching football and seeing the snow predicted for out West," he said, noting that he felt strongly that he wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of. "It can make my stomach clench. It begins a season of not sleeping or eating well."
He said that he once wore a pedometer just to see how his walking miles added up. The device was worn only at work.
"I racked up 13 to 14 miles a day during snow season just here at the shop," he said.
Customers became friends, he said, and added that some of his first customers are now grandparents and their grandchildren are young drivers. Customer loyalty is exceptional, he said.
"I remember when a competitor opened up down the road, maybe 2010, 2011, and the cars were lined up outside here right down the road. One of my good friends walked up and down the line of cars handing out little penny candies and when she came back she was kind of smiling. We had this line of cars and there was not a single car at the competitor's place."
Opening a Berkshire-based business was a good move, he said.
"I don't think there's a better place in the world," he said. "It's the people, they are great. I don't want to leave anybody hanging. I feel badly that the community might be hanging without a tire place like this."
He will miss the customers and the friendly faces. He owes the success of the shop to the lessons taught him years ago on the potato farm.
""My father is the greatest man I've ever known," he said. "He wasn't afraid of anything."