With a little help from his ADEC friends, Tom Nickel cut the ribbon Monday to mark the grand reopening of Star Tire & Brake in a new building at a new location.
Standing between Kyle Hannon, President of the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, and Chacriyar Chhuon, a direct support professional at ADEC, Tom used over-sized scissors to snip the ceremonial red ribbon.
The ribbon cutting marked the second anniversary of Tom’s ownership of Star Tire. He bought the business in 2014 from longtime owner Jim Randolph, a man who Tom said modeled good customer service and ethical business practices for more than 50 years. “When he retired, we wanted all those values to continue,” Tom said. “He believed service was his most important product, and we do, too.”
Tom explained he wanted the new building to reflect the era in which the business opened, 1965, so he gave it a retro design with red brick to match other buildings in the neighborhood, neon signage and barn-style green doors. To create a focal point in the customer waiting area, he hung on the wall the front half of a yellow Volvo, the very first car he owned.
“We want it to have some impact and some wow factor, but yet when you go by, it will look like it’s been there forever,” Tom told an Elkhart Truth reporter back when plans were first being developed. “We want it to look something like Mayberry, but the inside is modern.”
He succeeded getting that look. Customers waiting inside for their cars to be serviced now enjoy free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV. For the nostalgic Mayberry feel, Tom planted a vintage gas pump by the front sidewalk. He also added more practical features. The new building increased Star Tire’s space from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet and provided five industrial-sized bay doors, large enough for recreational vehicles and commercial trucks.
Tom said he never considered a location outside of the downtown area. “We were committed to being downtown,” he said. “It was a good fit to relocate down the street.”
He sold the original building at 216 N. Main Street to the city of Elkhart for a redevelopment project.
Kyle, speaking for the Chamber of Commerce, commended Tom for staying downtown. “This is a great addition to our community,” he said.
Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese said Star Tire was the second ribbon cutting he has participated in since becoming mayor Jan. 1. “The first one was also a tire store,” he said. “Nothing wrong with being the tire capital of the world.”
Before cutting the ribbon, Tom introduced Chacriyar and Kyle Hankins, a duo team from ADEC who completed the 2015 Chicago Marathon. Chacriyar was the running half of the team, pushing Kyle all 26.2 miles in a special racing wheelchair purchased by Star Tire.
“I could not be more proud of them,” Tom said.
Editor’s Note: Tom Nickel serves on ADEC’s Board of Directors. He has participated in ADEC’s Ride-A-Bike for 20 years, earning the top adult pledge-raiser title nine years in a row. His youngest daughter, Faith, attends ADEC’s after school program. Tom’s involvement with ADEC began when Faith was born with Down syndrome. Tom also owns Marv & Tom’s Truck Service & Wash in Elkhart.
Story by Nancy Miller / Mission Advancement Manager
Photos by Rod Tackett / Communications Specialist