Woodside Tire has become a popular local attraction-not for the shiny black treads it sells but for what has become an impromptu racing museum in its waiting room.
Two years ago owner Jim Bignell took an old town map off the wall of the condemned local firehouse and hung it in his shop in Kitchener. The map showed the small town of Bridgeport, which later merged into the city of Kitchener, and the former Bridgeport Speedway, a popular weekend destination for stock car racing fans from 1951 to the mid-1960s.
One day a Woodside Tire customer admired the historical map hung on the store wall and returned to drop off some of his Bridgeport Speedway memorabilia. From that point the dealership's racing collection ``just snowballed,'' according to Mr. Bignell.
One by one, former Bridgeport Speedway drivers or relatives of drivers stopped in to leave their mementos from the racetrack-photos, programs, jacket crests, a flagman's shirt, an antique air pump, pennants, flags and an old helmet.
He doesn't mind his dealership becoming a spontaneous repository because, he said, ``This is fun!''
One customer brought in four of his father's racing trophies that had been sitting in his garage. Another man, whose father was the 1956 champ at the track, dropped off a 100-page photo album from those glory days.
All the nostalgia has created a makeshift museum inside Mr. Bignell's 40x20-foot waiting room, where about 40 items-not counting the 200-plus old photos of race drivers and cars-are hung on the walls or preserved in two display cases.
As it turns out, Mr. Bignell is also a race enthusiast-NASCAR, to be specific. His father used to race cars at another racetrack and when his family moved to Bridgeport, Mr. Bignell remembers his father taking him as a child to Bridgeport Speedway events. He recalled about 3,000 people attending weekend races.
But the racetrack became a victim of its own success. Constant complaints from some local residents about the noise from roaring engines eventually forced the operation to close, according to Mr. Bignell.
Some of the stock car drivers are still around, he said, and they have brought in photos and souvenirs or just come in to look at the collection.
The attraction may have increased foot traffic a little into the store, but it hasn't boosted business, Mr. Bignell admitted. Yet ``it gives people something to talk about,'' he said. Although he doesn't advertise his unique collection, word of it has spread. ``It took on a life of its own,'' he said.
His small Goodyear dealership is mostly involved in wholesaling tires to local car dealerships and other businesses, with his retail business focusing on tire sales and service.
Mr. Bignell started his business about 30 years ago after first selling used cars. When he took old cars to the scrap yard, ``I kept the tires that were in good shape and put an ad in the paper.''
Selling used tires ``went over big,'' he recalled and he began looking for additional used tires to sell.
He eventually drifted into the new-tire business and now operates the one-bay tire shop with three employees.