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Family keeps things rolling

After nearly 80 years in business, at family-run Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc., the customer is still the boss.

Bill Williams, Chairman & CEO of Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc., stands near a faux birthday cake constructed of tires celebrating the company’s 80th birthday coming in August.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

The Jack Williams Tire Company family, from left: Bill Williams and his children, Jason, Tracey and Scott in the main warehouse in Moosic.

PETE G. WILCOX photos/THE TIMES LEADER

Bill Williams, Chairman & CEO of Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc.

MOOSIC – While Bill Williams talked to the driver in a pickup truck, his sons and daughter looked at the raised white Goodyear lettering on the man’s tires.

It was a brand Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc. carried and likely the size was in stock.

Having grown up talking tread life, traction and radials, Scott, Tracey and Jason Williams learned to pay attention to details much as their father learned from his late father, the company founder and namesake.

The business celebrates its 80th year in August and it’s looking forward to as many more.

“You can’t get complacent,” said Bill Williams from behind the desk at the company’s corporate offices. “Complacency is what puts people out of business.”

The 65-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of the company made a sale with the pickup truck driver. It can happen anywhere, Williams said; in a restaurant, at a charity event, even when he picks up his phone.

“I never believed in screening phone calls,” he said, adding, it could be a sale, a complaint or someone letting him know one of his employees did a good job.

The business his dad started on Wyoming Avenue, Kingston, in 1929 has grown to include 25 stores, four warehouses and 435 employees. In 2006, Modern Tire Dealer magazine named the company the Tire Dealer of the Year out of 26,000 independent dealers.

Bill Williams has been with the company since he graduated from high school in 1962. He’s made changes, invested in his workers and facilities and clung to the lessons from his father, who was his mentor and best friend. At the top of the list, he said, is, “If you do the right thing, the rewards will follow.”

Sales figures are not public for the privately held company.

The customers too have taught him a thing or two about business. “They’re the real boss,” he said.

The company conducts training programs for all employees and new hires, not just to cover the safety issues involved with tires and automotive repair, but to teach them how to provide quality service.

“It’s all about serving the customer, that’s our whole philosophy,” Williams said.

That covers all aspects of the business from the showrooms and service bays to the wholesale sales department and the technology improvements in the 135,000-square-foot warehouse on Rocky Glen Road.

The company purchased the warehouse in 1988 and added another 50,000 square feet so that it holds approximately 180,000 tires. Two other warehouses are in Allentown and one is in Harrisburg.

The Moosic facility is outfitted with sophisticated inventory software and material handling equipment. The tires are tracked from the time they arrive to the time they leave. Delivery trucks have global positioning satellite navigation systems that track their routes and any deviations from them. The lifts that run over wires in the concrete floor fit into the six-foot aisles and swing right or left to place or retrieve tires on the racks. Overhead lights are activated by motion sensors so that they operate only in the areas where work is being done. The technology cost more than $1 million to install.

“This is the most modern computerized tire warehouse in the country,” Williams said.

As much as it relies on high technology to operate, flesh and blood employees are the heart of the business. Many have been with the company for 10, 15 or 20 years. And many in management positions have worked their way up through the ranks.

It’s the same for Williams’s children. Scott, 36, is president and chief operating officer; Jason, 30, is executive vice president and general manager; Tracey, 33, is vice president.

All three said they chose to work in the family business. “No one was ever really pressured into the business,” Jason said.

The family regularly gets together for meals at their Larksville home of their father and mother, Sandi, and the talk often revolves around the business.

“It’s part of your life,” Scott added.

Tracey worked elsewhere after graduating college. Being part of a family business is “different” from her prior work experience, she said.

Serving customers and staying ahead of competitors is a big commitment for him and his children, Bill Williams acknowledged. “It’s a passion for the business,” he said.

Milestones during 80 years of business

1929 – Jack Williams Sr. opens his tire store on Wyoming Avenue, Kingston.

1962 – Bill Williams joins the business.

1968 – Company buys a warehouse in Luzerne

1972 – Tropical Storm Agnes damages Kingston store and plans for store on Route 315 are put on hold.

1973 – Company opens store in Plains Township on Route 315.

1988 - Company buys warehouse in Moosic.

1995 – Company founder and namesake Jack Williams Sr. dies.

2003 – Company opens high performance store in Kingston.

2004 – Third generation of the Williams family moves into management. Scott Williams promoted to president. Jason Williams promoted to executive vice president. Tracey Williams promoted to vice president.

2009 – Company celebrates 80th anniversary.

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