In July of 2016, an EF-2 tornado ripped through the tiny city of Eureka, Kansas, leaving behind a crooked path of uprooted trees, downed power lines and rubble from buildings whose walls had come crashing down. When the devastation was done and the dust cleared, the deployed emergency management director assessed the damage and started making calls to get the town moving. One of his first was to Kyle and Shannon Rockhill, co-owners of Rock’s 54 Tire & Oil, which the tornado spared by about a mile.
For weeks, Kyle recalls, he spent all his time patching and replacing tires, sometimes until 4 a.m. He would often stop home for a quick nap and return to the shop by 7 a.m. Eureka rallied, and the just over 2,000 people who call the city home settled back into their normal, everyday lives.
Then, just short of two years later in June 2018, Eureka found itself as the victim of a second twister – this one, an EF-3 tornado.
“We just thought, well, we’ve been through this before,” Kyle says. “We were able to keep the emergency vehicles and the clean-up crews, trailers, tractors, everything – moving. The emergency management director came to me one day, and he said, ‘Kyle, do you know who the most important person is after a natural disaster or a tornado?’ I guessed the ambulance. But he said, ‘No, it’s the tire shop. You’ve got to keep us moving.’”
Fast forward another few years to 2021, and in the middle of yet another disaster—this time a global pandemic—and Rock’s 54 is still serving as an essential business in its community.
“The industry in rural Kansas, it can’t or won’t be put on hold while we wait for the virus to be contained,” Kyle says. “Around here, the cattle still need [to be] fed. Oil production, it still needs to be pumped. Crops need to be planted and harvested.”
Shannon says about 90% of their customers are repeat customers. To ensure they keep coming back, she says Rock’s must sustain its reputation of fast, friendly and reliable service, even when the pandemic makes business so much less reliable. That includes free in-town vehicle pickup and delivery and free vehicle cleanings with every oil change.
While stellar customer service is what the shop is known for, marketing helps attract new customers. Rock’s promotes its services on Facebook, the radio, in print and during live events. However, word-of mouth tends to draw the crowds, Kyle says.
Kyle and Shannon’s friendly, familiar faces also no doubt boost repeat business opportunities. Both were born and raised in Eureka and attended high school together. The duo got together in 2005, and Kyle started working for the town’s tire shop, 54 Tire and Oil LLC, so named due to its proximity to U.S. Highway 54. The couple saw the opportunity to own the business in 2008, right after they were married, and Kyle added “Rock’s” to the name, a tribute to his high school nickname.
Shannon describes her and Kyle’s story as “exactly what the American dream is all about.”
“We started with an idea of what our future could look like and how we could help those in our community by providing a much-needed service in the Flint Hills of Kansas, and have far exceeded what our dreams originally were,” she says. “We are blessed to be able to be in Eureka, Kansas, with the best customers, employees and suppliers.”