The legacy of Tripp’s Tire Pros began in 1911, before tire shops really even existed.
More than 100 years ago, the local blacksmith shop in Ayden, N.C., was asked to repair the first automobile tire, which informally established the Tripp family as one of the very first in the tire and automotive service business.
“One of my ancestors owned a blacksmith shop and the local doctors came by with the first car of the town,” explains Tony Tripp, owner. “He had a flat tire and didn’t know where to have it fixed so he went to the blacksmith shop, where they worked on the wagon wheels for buggies. That’s where the first tire was worked on.”
The blacksmith probably never imagined that repairing that one tire would spark a tire and automotive shop legacy that now spans five generations.
Today, Tripp’s Tire Pros has two locations, one in Ayden just a block away from the original blacksmith shop, and the other in nearby Winterville, N.C. Tony also owns a NAPA Auto Parts store, which was originally purchased by his father and uncle in 1987.
Maintaining a successful business for 100 years is no simple task, but the Tripp clan has kept the business alive by offering quality products and repair services combined with exceptional customer service.
“We have tried to change with the times and I think that is one thing that has really helped us,” says Tony. “We added towing and we added commercial road service a few years ago, so we’re always trying to do the things that customers want.”
He adds that they’re consistently updating equipment and offering the latest amenities to customers.
“The biggest thing we try and do is get our customers in and out in a timely manner,” he says. “Its something we’ve always done. Everyone’s time is important. It’s not something people ever want to do but they have to and we try to make it as easy as possible. We have a nice waiting area with wi-fi and magazines to try and make their wait more comfortable.”
Two years ago, Tony made the decision to partner with American Tire Distributors’ national Tire Pros network, which he says has been a valuable tool for his small business and customers.
“We felt like it was something that would help us stay on top of changes and utilize the benchmarking and marketing ideas that Tire Pros can bring to the table,” he says. “It’s nice to have that consulting and help keep us up to date with the new ideas that are coming out.”
Additionally, Tony is able to provide his customers with the Tire Pros tire and service warranty, as well as roadside assistance coverage, through more than 30,000 locations nationwide.
“The nationwide road hazard protection policies that we can offer through Tire Pros definitely give the customer that extra piece of mind,” he says.
Between the two Tripp’s Tire Pros locations and the NAPA Auto Parts store, Tony and his crew perform a variety of automotive services.
“We do a lot of general maintenance and tires, of course,” he says. “We have a quick bay oil change, we do a lot of state inspections and general maintenance and we also do commercial road service and sell lines of commercial truck tires.”
With the shops sitting just 20 miles outside Greenville, Tony says they’ve been able to service several commercial trucking fleets.
“A big portion of my tire business is commercial truck tires,” he says. “We have been very successful with that. We have a lot of commercial accounts that we’ve been able to maintain for several years, and we enjoy strong loyalty that we have been able to keep over the years. It’s a competitive business, but we have been lucky enough to have some fleets with us for 15 years.”
Tony believes his customer loyalty stems from the old family values deeply rooted in his business and employees.
“I have customers who had parents that did business with my dad and now I am doing business with them,” he says. “We have a loyal following and I think it’s because of the honesty and integrity that our business has always portrayed. People just know that they can trust us. We don’t want people to feel like they have to second-guess anything.”
Tony adds that this multi-generational business is successful, in a large part, because of the professional and quality employees it has gained over the years.
With more than 20 employees among all three operations, Tony says many have made Tripp’s Tire Pros a long-term career choice.
“They typically stay for several years; our youngest full-time employee has been here almost two years,” he says. “We try and do what we can to keep our employees around because they are a big asset to our business.”
In order to do the best job, employees need the best training and Tony says he takes advantage of training through many of the shop’s vendors.
“Some of the technicians have ASE certification and we’ve done training through NAPA and other vendors who offer it.”
Along with mechanical skills, Tony is a major supporter of education and serves on the board of directors and foundation board for Pitt Community College in Winterville, N.C.
Tony proudly adds that before his son, Matthew, joined the business as a full-time employee, he earned a business degree from the local college.
Along with supporting education, the Tripp family and business remain active in the community.
“The community does business with us and we feel like we have to give back and pay it forward so that’s what we try to do whenever we can,” he says.
The company regularly sponsors local youth baseball and softball teams and has partnered with the local food bank to host a food drive.
“We worked with Piggly Wiggly to collect donations,” says Tony. “It turned out great and we were able to collect a truck load of food to donate to the local food bank.”
Currently, the company is participating in the Tire Pros Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser.
“For the next 45 days, for every tire sold, we are donating a percentage of money,” explains Tony. “After that, we would like to make another donation from the business that will go to the Children’s Miracle network in our area.”
Tony also is a member of the North Carolina Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, where he serves on the board.
From its origins as a blacksmith shop in the early 1900s to the fifth generation family that runs it today, Tripp’s Tire Pros has proven to be a trusted business in the Ayden community, and the Tripp family hopes to continue the legacy for generations to come.