After 40 years, Austin says goodbye to Tire City Inc.

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By Bryan Marshall

Richard Austin is ready for a change.
Austin has decided it is time to move on from Tire City Inc. after four decades in the business.
“After 40 years, I’m getting a little tired,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people who have worked 40 years at a place. I’d like to slow down, but still be involved.”
Tire City’s origins started in 1946 when George Powers started selling tires at Powers Home and Auto in Williamstown, according to Austin.
After the business grew, Austin said the owners decided to open Tire City in 1963 in an old softball factory located where Lilly’s Body Shop now operates.
Austin joined Tire City in 1972 as manager when the shop was located in an old skating rink across from where Vineyard Church now stands.
“There are so many more tire lines now and so many sizes,” he said. “That’s one of the big things in trying to keep stock and inventory. Every time they bring out a new model of a car, you have two or three size tires that will fit maybe that particular model.”
The following year Austin became a partner, alongside Powers, Dick Jacob and Lyle Rogers, when he purchased Jim Conrad’s interest in the business.
In 1985, Austin bought out the remaining partners and built the current Tire City location on Main Street in Williamstown.
“I started in 1969 with my uncle in Covington at a tire store down there,” he said. “I’ve always been kind of a car guy myself anyway. I like to be around automobiles and I like dealing with people and to serve the people.”
When Austin decided he was going to retire he initially was going to shut the business down as well.
Fortunately for loyal customers of the Williamstown business, TCI will not be closing its doors.
Austin is in the process of selling Tire City to Hans Philippo, whose other businesses include Condor Auto Body and Paint Shop in Williamstown and Holland Roofing.

“It couldn’t have a better owner than Hans,” Austin said. “He’s been a friend of ours and customer of ours for a long time. I think it’s great you’re still going to have local ownership.”

Philippo has been getting his tires and alignment done at Tire City since he moved to Grant County from Holland 34 years ago.
Having studied to be a mechanic in Holland, Philippo said he always wanted to have a garage at a young age, but he got into the roofing businesses instead.

“I’ve been a long, long-time customer,” he said. “So when I saw, ‘Oh, he’s going to close,’ I thought I’d prefer seeing it open. It’s more than one reason, but one of the reasons is to satisfy me with a car business and obviously I hate to see jobs go out of Grant County to some place else.”

Philippo said he plans to do some remodeling and he is looking into adding more services, including box truck rentals, used automobile sales and work on motorcycles, tractors, chainsaws and farm equipment.
He anticipates hiring between two to six employees as additional services are offered to customers.

“One thing I would like to do is ask the Grant County people, ‘What would you like to see?’” he said. “I’m thinking, since we are close to the lake, of doing boats, Seadoos and any kind of watercraft. I have space in northern Kentucky where we can store and I can take them in, winterize them and have them ready in the spring to go again.”
While the hours will remain 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for now, Philippo said he hopes to open Saturday mornings sometime after Labor Day.

He also is debating a name change once he takes over the business.
“On the one hand, I don’t want to because everybody knows Tire City,” Philippo said. “On the other hand, it needs to start showing that we do more than just tires.”
For Austin, he will miss dealing with the people everyday the most.
Although he won’t be gone from the shop completely.
Austin will still keep an office at Tire City Inc. to operate the local chapter of the Salvation Army and be around to offer assistance at the business.

There will be a retirement pig roast for Austin from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at Tire City Inc.
“I just really appreciate the customers we’ve been able to serve and maintain and who still come to us versus going to the big box stores,” said Austin.