Jim Critchley started a tire service business in Altavista in 1975, and despite the difficulties of building a business from the ground up, it is still in operation today.
That’s not to say it didn’t change over the years. Currently run by his son, JR Critchley, what used to be Jim’s tire Service is now JR’s Auto Care, a full-service, six-bay auto repair shop on Main Street in downtown Altavista. Since starting at the business under his father, Critchley hasn’t looked back.
“I love what I do. I love mechanics, repairing vehicles. But it also helps us to be able to create a relationship with the community,” Critchley said. “It’s not just about making a living.”
When Critchley eventually took over the business from his father, he performed much of the work to turn its current location from an Exxon gas station to an auto repair shop, even adding multiple bays to the shop. That was 15 years ago.
Though Critchley’s wife used to work in the office, she retired years ago, passing the torch to her and Critchley’s daughter, Kaitlin Hylton, who is now the shop’s office manager. Both Hylton and Critchley, who live just three houses apart, emphasized the family aspect of the business, even for employees who aren’t related to them by blood. Hylton said she often brings her children to work.
“We're all a family,” Hylton said. “We prioritize that.”
Hylton said despite the pandemic, JR’s has been able to stay busy. She said the shop has always provided texting and drop-off box services as a way to schedule appointments, but that recently customers have used them much more.
“A lot of people didn't use it before. But now they do,” Hylton said.
Critchley said he has a thorough vetting process for technicians who want to work with him, keeping them under his direct supervision for 90 days after they are initially hired. He said his reasons for doing so are two-fold.
“One is the vehicles are an investment that customers have put money into and they need them to last. So we need to do our part and check them over—not just what they came in for, but also for what they may need now or in the near future,” Critchley said. “The second part is safety. The customers count on us, but we have vehicles here to check them over correctly. That way when they're driving down the road, they feel that they can have a safe vehicle to drive.”
Critchley said he is grateful not only for the opportunity to work with family, but also for the customers who have continued coming to them for their automotive needs despite the difficult year.
“We want to say thank you to the community because without the community’s support, we wouldn't be able to be here,” Critchley said.
Hylton likewise was thankful for those who have supported them over the last few months.
“We have been really blessed to stay busy during this pandemic,” Hylton said.