A Johnston County landmark for 35 years has closed its doors. The owners of Jones Tire Service, at 1693 S. Pollock St., quietly shuttered the business on Dec. 20, marking the end of an era for Sadie Jones and her son, Tony.
It all began in 1978, when Sadie’s husband, Hugh Jones, purchased a Union 76 gas station. Jones ran a used-car lot next door and was looking to expand his business. With the help of Tony, then 18 and a recent graduate of Smithfield-Selma High School, Jones began offering oil changes and state inspections to the motoring public.
But after a few years, the family realized tires were better sellers and made them the focus of their business. Hugh and Tony did the manual labor while Sadie kept the books and sold sodas, snacks and NASCAR knickknacks inside the shop.
“Daddy thought we might as well start selling tires,” Tony said. “We sold them for $5. He was one of those types that liked to sell. People trusted him.”
“Over the years, we had so many repeat customers,” Sadie added. “We got to the point that we knew everybody that walked through the door.”
Hugh Jones was also a passionate NASCAR fan who followed the career of Richard Petty. Over the years, he would purchase and restore The King’s former vehicles, parking them by the roadway.
“Those vehicles were always a fixture outside of the building,” Sadie said. “We always had something Richard Petty as a landmark so people would know where we were.”
In recent years, the mom-and-pop business could not keep up with the larger retailers cropping up on U.S. 301. Plus, the family said, the demand for used tires just wasn’t what it used to be.
Hugh Jones passed away in 2011, but his wife and son kept the business going. Now 81, Sadie felt it was time to retire.
“We decided it was a good time to say goodbye,” she said. “We only closed two times a year. This year, when we took our Christmas vacation, we just didn’t open back up.”
For Tony, working in the family business is the only job he’s ever known. He said he’ll miss interacting with the customers.
“It’ll be good memories, and I’ll miss it,” said Tony, 52. “I enjoyed meeting people, but I’m going to take a little bit of time off and relax.”