World War II era service shop still thriving under the same Waco family eight decades later
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Central Texas business from the World War II era survived eight decades of ups and downs, including the 1953 Waco tornado, and is now celebrating 80 years of, not only operating and thriving, but remaining in the same family since day one.
City Tire and Battery in Waco was founded in 1942 by George Berry Graves, Sr., a former Baylor Trustee, who worked at the business until his death at the age of 80 in 1991.
His son, George Berry Graves, Jr., 83, later owned the shop as did the founder’s grandson, Berry Graves. Both men still work at the family-owned business today.
“In 1942, I don’t think my grandfather ever envisioned four generations of his family working in this family business, but I hope that we are doing a job that will make him proud,” said current owner Berry Graves.
The founder had owned several businesses before opening up the tire shop at the corner of 3rd and Washington right in the middle of World War II.
At the time, there was a ration on tires because of the war, but that didn’t slow down the entrepreneur.
Berry said his grandfather was able to thrive during World War II because he had a good relationship with Firestone and was able to get tires to sell.
Another challenge the business had to overcome came in 1953, when an F-5 tornado struck Waco, killing 114 people and wiping out most of downtown.
Although its tires were tossed all over town, City Tire and Battery’s building only suffered shattered windows.
“When the tornado hit, we were downtown on 3rd and Washington and dad was in junior high,” Berry said.
“My grandfather had been in business about 10 years, and he told the story about after it hit. It threw tires all over that part of downtown and so he came out to the house and got my dad and one of their good friends and got them badges from the Sherriff’s Department and they started trying to retrieve tires and bring them back.”
Berry said City Tire and Battery really has withstood the test of time.
In 1967, it moved to its current location at 1502 South Valley Mills Drive.
Despite changing locations, the family has continued to pay homage to its past by hanging old photographs in the lobby.
They even have display the old street signs from the intersection of 3rd and Washington repainted and on display.
Berry said City Tire and Battery is much more than a business to his family, which includes six generations of Baylor graduates and six generations of Wacoans.
“For us, it’s just always been a place, a second home almost where we would come out to visit my dad and always had summer jobs working there and so I’ve grown up working there,” he said.
Berry’s son, Gillen, is now following in the family footsteps.
Following graduation from Baylor, he went to work and is now the assistant manager just under General Manager, Wes Warrick, who is not related.
“To be celebrating our 80th anniversary is just a very rewarding experience,” Berry said. “We are just so thankful for the employees and the customers and all the different people who have been a part of the sucess over those 80 years. Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
City Tire and Battery performs all tire services, and automotive services such as brakes, alignments, HVAC repairs, suspension and tune ups.
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