Brothers Tire founder Marvin Brother. Photo by Paris Goodnight, Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS, NC - Marvin Brothers said he was perfectly happy with his job of driving a Trailways bus, which he did for 18 years.
But when he lost sight in an eye, he had to move on to his next career. So he opened Brothers Tire Sales on May 11, 1959.
Fifty years later, the business is thriving and at 93, the founder now keeps busy as the chief "go-fer," while his grandson, Todd Haley, runs the operation.
Brothers started with a one-room boat shop he bought on North Main Street. As the business grew, he bought an adjacent furniture store, beauty shop and fish market "one right after the other," he says.
He added on a new building about 30 years ago to create the stretch that 15 full-time workers keep hopping today.
Brothers grew up near the coast in eastern North Carolina, moving to Kannapolis in 1937. His wife, Evelyn, was a key part of the business during the 1960s after she left a job at Cannon Mills and she worked up until 1999.
His son, Doug Brothers, and daughter, Jenny Jones, helped out from the time they were old enough, and Dean Freeman, a nephew, was a part-timer in the early days.
Doug's children, Shelley Farris and Brad Brothers, later joined in, along with Jones' two children, Todd and Tracy Roberson, who now lives in Kernersville.
Over the years, the tire business has changed like others, with options filling page after page of computer screens. Marvin Brothers says it was easier to sell tires back when he started. "We didn't have so much to deal with," he says, and didn't have to keep up with things like changing computer systems.
Now Haley points out they may have 15 brands of tires available in an almost unlimited range of sizes. The 1979 A.L. Brown High School graduate has been working at the family business since 1983 after he graduated from N.C. State and he's been president of Brothers Tire since 2000, when Doug retired. His mother worked full time until 2004.
Haley still gets his hands dirty every day in the 10 bays, even putting tires on when needed. He's there whenever the business is open, including half a day on Saturdays.
"We don't have any big CEOs with big salaries here," his mother, Jenny, says.
Dennis Sellers is manager of Brothers Tire now after starting there 32 years ago as a teenager. Doug Brothers' son, Brad, is the office manager and he's worked at the business for a decade.
As part of the celebration of 50 years in business, Brothers Tire plans a year of events starting Friday. Michelin tire mascot "Bib" will be in town, maybe even appearing this afternoon, and will be outside in the heat on and off as long as he can until next Wednesday. Customers can register for giveaways that include 25 roadside kits, $1,000 from Michelin for tires that will be given away in January, free oil changes, and money off on brake repairs.
A customer appreciation day cookout is on the drawing board for later in the summer.
Brothers Tire is the main sponsor for the Carl McCombs golf tournament coming up at Corbin Hills, including a chance at $10,000 for a hole-in-one. Proceeds go to Kimball Memorial Lutheran, which several family members have attended for decades. A number of them live in the neighborhoods not far from Lady's Funeral Home.
Haley said he has no firm plans for expansion in the future, but since Brothers Tire owns several parcels across North Main Street from the current location, growth on that side is always a possibility.