ASHLAND One of Ashland’s oldest businesses will close soon.

Gene Jackson Tire Co. at 1540 Carter Ave. is for sale.

Owned and operated by Steve Jackson, the son of the original owner, said it’s not official, but there have been a few buyers interested and the sale is pending.

Jackson said he has started the process of returning inventory and gathering his things. He added he’s ready to get out of the business.

“I’m 73 years old and I haven’t had a vacation in 10 years,” he said.

Jackson said he’s had as many as eight employees; he currently has four. He said he has no idea what the store will be after it’s sold.

The business began as a tire store in 1947, when Gene Jackson sold tires for General Tire and Rubber in Huntington and opened a store in the building that now houses The Daily Independent. At the time, it was Wurts Brothers Garage and the elder Jackson sold tires there.

Later, he worked developing camera film at Anderson Pharmacy when a representative from Ashland Oil offered him the opportunity to operate one of their service stations.

“They said, ‘We need a guy like you to come and be in the gas business,’” Jackson said.

That’s when he opened the store on Carter Avenue, a place that had a permanent impact on Steve Jackson’s life.

“When you’re the son of the boss, you’re sweeping the floor when you’re 10,” he said. “When you’re 13, after school you’re pumping gas and sweeping the floor.”

He said at 16, he was driving and taking a mechanics course.

But he sought a break from the business, too.

“I went to college (at the University of Kentucky), so that was a two- or three-year respite,” he said. As an ROTC student in school, he also went into the Army with an eight-year commitment.

“That was Vietnam days,” Jackson recalled. “I went to Fort Benning, but my class was too late to go to Vietnam. Congress stopped the funding, so we went back home.”

He said his father wanted him pumping gas again. “When you’re the son of a guy with a gas station, you’re going to pump gas,” he said. But that’s not all he did.

While working at the service station, he attended classes at Ashland Community College. Eventually, he took a job with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

“They thought I’d be a good investment, I don’t know,” Jackson said. He worked in Kenton, Ohio, helping run a Goodyear store.

“It was cold and windy all the time,” he said. “After a year, I wanted to go back home. We’ve been selling Goodyear tires ever since.”

He went back to working for his father, but it was different this time.

“I wasn’t a runny-nosed kid anymore,” he said. “I had worked for the big guys and Dad was getting old and my dad’s uncle was getting old. How do you get your son interested in a business? You give it to him.”

Steve Jackson said he took over sometime between 1975 and 1980 — he didn’t remember exactly what year. He said he had tried to buy the property from Ashland Oil, but the company wasn’t interested in letting it go.

He said he prides himself on honest dealings, especially with women, who often aren’t as educated about automobile maintenance and feel as though they are likely to be cheated at a garage.

“I made a conscious decision never to cheat a woman,” Jackson said. “They know we’re not cheating them.”

Jackson said he got out of the gasoline business in 1995, selling the last gallon on Sept. 16 to Earl Clay for 18.9 cents a gallon, the price the first gallon of gas sold for at the station. The business continued to sell tires, batteries and other goods and services for automobiles.

Jackson also continued his education, getting a master’s degree in business administration from Morehead State University. He also took 15 hours of Russian language, which surprisingly came in handy.

“One day this fellow was walking down the street, and he came over and gave me a note with a tire size on it,” Jackson said. With a word or two, Jackson realized he was a Russian, so he asked the man, in Russian, “Do you want to buy a tire?” The man held up four fingers. Continuing to speak in Russian, he asked the man where his car was. “He points to the east and told me his car was in Russia,” Jackson said. The man purchased four tires and carried them off, two on each shoulder.

“The people here looked at me like, ‘What just happened?’ and I said, ‘I can’t believe this crap,’” Jackson recalled.

Later, Jackson learned the man had been in town to perform with an orchestra at the Paramount Arts Center. He even brought his wife over to meet Jackson, presumably to prove he met a speaker of Russian in Ashland.

“In Russia, the tires were $200 each and there was a six-month wait,” Jackson said. “I sold them to him for $25 each.”

Retirement will be an adjustment, Jackson admitted, as he has spent his whole life working and hasn’t developed any hobbies.

He and his wife, Nancy, have one daughter and two grandsons. He said his wife encouraged him to retire and hinted she’d like to take a train trip to Alaska, but he doesn’t have a lot of ideas yet.

“That’s all for after I’m out of this place,” he said. “I think I’ll relax a while and then I’ll get antsy, so I’ll probably go out and check my oil and tires.”

(606) 326-2661 |

lward@dailyindependent.com

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