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Ellijay, GA
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Ellijay Tire Company owner Russell Williams selects a tire for a customer. Williams is the third generation of his family to own and operate the local business. (Photo by Michael Andrews)
by Michael?Andrews

A worn-out ball joint. A split sidewall. Fluctuating tire pressure and something on the passenger side that just goes “clunk.” 
These problems are part of a normal day’s  –– or sometimes hour’s –– work at Ellijay?Tire Company.

A lifelong relationship with cars
Russell Williams is the third generation of his family to own and operate the local tire sales and maintenence shop on Maddox Drive. In 1955, his grandad –– Russell “Pa” Williams –– bought part interest in the business and later ran it himself until the mid-1960s.
“Back then, they did recapping, new tire sales and repair,” said Russell. “Recapping, which began to decline in the ‘70s, was putting new tread on an (old) tire casing.”
It didn’t take long for  9-year-old Russell to go from sweeping floors in his grandpa’s garage to getting his hands dirty changing tires. 
“My grandad thought I was old enough to change a tire at nine. That’s my first recollection of actually working here,” he remembered.
Later, the incentive of making enough money to buy a car –– a lifelong interest of Russell’s –– kept him rooted at the family business almost until  his college years.

“Even when I was little, I was into cars,” he said. “My mom and dad told me if I wanted to have my own car someday,?I’d have to earn the money for it.”
He did earn enough to buy that first car, a 1985 Camaro, at age 16.
“It was a small engine, because mom and dad wouldn’t let me have the high horsepower one,” he said with a chuckle.

Now and then
The service center with the speedy roadrunner as its mascot has been able to remain open so long thanks to the loyalty of its customers, acknowledged  both Russell and his wife, Jodi.  
“We just enjoy our customers and being around the people we work with,” said Jodi.

When people come in with “wheel problems,” Russell said he wants to provide a more personalized form of service than one might get at a chain store. 
“If there’s ever a question of opinion, I’m the owner and I (will try to) answer their question.?A lot of people like that,” he said.
The husband and wife team took over the business from Russell’s father, Mike, last year. His dad began running the shop alongside “Pa” after returning home from the Army in 1966. 
Russell said the type of one-on-one interaction   the shop provides remains much the same as when the elder Williams men ran the place.   
“We know our customers by name. They come back and their children come back,” said Jodi. “We like to build a personal relationship with each one of them.”
Russell said the Ellijay Tire staff does wheel work on cars, trucks, transport trailers and even farm equipment –– a service that’s rare in today’s tire maintenence industry.
“We do small farm tractors and lawnmowers on down to a tiller. If it’s a tire and comes off with lug nuts, we can usually work on it. We do farm tractor flats all the time,” he confirmed.?“It’s something a lot of people in town don’t care to work with. But, for us, it’s just another day.”?
That is unless it’s Wednesday or Sunday. The shop still closes for church on those days as it’s always done. That’s just another family tradition, Russell said.
“Church on Wednesday night, church on Sunday. It’s been the same hours since (way back) then,” he added.

New services offered
Tire technology has come a long way since Ellijay Tire began recapping threadbare shells and replacing flats almost 60 years ago.
“I can remember changing bias tires on cars. Those are tires without a steel belt.?Nowadays you only see them on trailers,” Russell said. 
The shop recently expanded the services it offers to include oil changes and four-wheel alignments.
“We used to have to send people away when they came in for an alignment,” said Jodi. “People tell us they’re glad we’re doing them now. It’s been a very positive reaction.”
The camera-assisted   technology used there helps detect an alignment  problem in a fraction of the time taken by older models, Russell noted.
“You can check a car and know it’s out of line in three minutes. If you’ve got a machine that’s over 10 years old, it can take you 20 minutes before you know,” he continued.
The third-generation tireman said he’s not sure whether his sons Cooper, age 6, and Cash, age 4, will take over the shop one day so their dad can ease into retirement.
“That’s completely and totally up to them,” said Russell. “Their favorite movie is ‘Cars,’ so we’ll see.”

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