Russell Williams, owner of Williams Tire Company, was nine when he started working at his father’s tire shop. “My dad started me out sweeping floors and washing windows,” remembers Russell. “I was blessed to have both my father and grandfather there to teach me about cars.” While in college Russell worked summertime and vacations at the tire shop. He eventually came back home to stay. “It always seemed like a good fit,” says Russell. “It’s outside, it’s getting to know people, it’s working with cars and I still get to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Russell’s family business, Ellijay Tire Company, just turned 60 years old—quite a feat in view of the statistics. Small businesses employ over half of workers in the United States, but, according to the Small Business Association, only 50% of all new businesses survive more than five years. Only 33% survive more than 10 years. Each time a new generation takes over, it becomes harder to maintain and grow the business. Each successive owner has to keep up with the demands of his time. In his grandfather’s time, it was turning from re-capping tires to selling more new tires.
For Russell and his family, the challenge has been keeping up with technology. “We had to transition from writing receipts to keeping customer information online. Checking alignments used to take 20-30 minutes. Now we have a quick-check system that runs complete diagnostics for customers—it prints out a sheet showing battery life, tire tread, alignment and more. And, it does it in less than 10 minutes. The technology allows us to serve customers even faster.”
Ellijay Tire specializes in light car work—tires, wheels, alignments, oil, etc. They have some of the few matching roll force balancers in north Georgia, incredible machines that take imperfect tires and wheels and match them to make them round. They have a run-flat machine and work on low-profile and specialty tires daily. The alignment machines are top of the line. They give a color-coded diagnostic sheet to help customers see their car’s condition.
In a modern world of corporations and cookie cutter franchise stores, businesses like the Ellijay Tire Company are getting harder to find. They are a reminder of an America where you knew the business owner’s name and where people cared enough to ask your name and give you a smile. A family-owned business is a place where you aren’t just a statistic to a boardroom full of people in business suits.
“We were able to keep expanding our business in Ellijay until recently.” says Russell. “We have great customers who are loyal and trust us. They travel from all over north Georgia. We just got to the point a couple of years ago where we felt like the wait times were too long, so we were looking at opening another store to help them.”
Russell and his wife, Jodi, found an opportunity for expansion in nearby Blue Ridge. “The second largest customer base we have is in Blue Ridge,” notes Russell. “Our new store will be managed by Robert Goodwin, who has been with us for 15 years. We’ll miss seeing him at our main store every day, but there’s no one else we could trust with this much responsibility. Robert has the amazing ability to manage employees, fix problems and treat our customers like the family they are—all of those are rare qualities in one person, but essential for a successful store.” The new store will be named Williams Tire Company, but that’s the only thing that will change. Excellent service and customer care will still be our main goal. The roadrunner logo (Russell’s grandfather’s favorite cartoon) and the company tag line “Since 1955” will stay the same. Eventually, the store in Ellijay will evolve to include the new name.
Having 60 years of experience certainly helps ease the startup of a new store. The sales staff at Williams Tire Company is always searching market trends and deals to pass onto customers. “Anytime we find deals, we stock up so we can pass on the savings to our customers.” Their website ( Williams Tire Company) is a way for customers to research brands and prices online at their convenience. If Russell or Robert don’t have it in stock at either location, they can usually get it the very next day. Thankfully, being independent helps Williams Tire Company sell any brand of tire and wheel, but they are also authorized dealers for many major brands (Michelin, BF Goodrich, Uniroyal, Cooper and Yokohama), which means they can offer the money-back promotions to customers and warranty tires. While larger, chain stores offer a price and then add extra charges, Williams Tire has a different philosophy. They include everything in their quotes that a customer needs to get out the door. No hidden fees for lug nuts or warranties. Just clear prices.
“We get some people that just walk in, but most new customers have heard about us by word of mouth,” says Robert. “We have a reputation for caring about what the customer needs. We don’t just sell to make the sale. The tire shop has generations of families come back to do business. Family and loyalty are important to us.” Russell and Robert agree that one of their main goals is to educate customers, answer their questions and make them feel comfortable.
“Each time a customer leaves with new tires, the reputation of Williams Tire is also riding along with them,” Russell adds. “Because we’re established, our customers can depend on us being here the next day. We’re not going anywhere.”
The rugged mountain terrain of north Georgia can take its toll on tires, so it’s important for a family’s safety to keep the tires working at optimum capacity all the time. Williams Tire Company has been in business a long time because they listen to their customers to find out what they need. “Years of experience have allowed us the ability to know where to find good prices and good quality. We know tires and wheels because it’s been our life since 1955,” says Russell. In uncertain times, it’s reassuring to know you don’t have to doubt your safety on the road.
Williams Tire Company now has TWO locations:
Ellijay Tire Company, Elljay
583 Maddox Drive
Ellijay, GA 30540
Monday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Tuesday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Thursday:8:00am – 6:00pm
Friday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
For more info visit: www.ellijaytire.com
Williams Tire Company, Blue Ridge
5140 Appalachian Hwy.
Blue Ridge, GA 30519
Tuesday: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Wednesday: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Thursday: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Friday: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Saturday: 8:30am – 5:00pm
For more info visit: www.williamstireco.com
Cash, Check, Visa, Mastercard, Discover and National Account accepted.
Gift certificates and financing available.
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