MARSHALL, Texas (Oct. 29, 2009) — David Gaut Sr. is not going to let a little thing like a devastating fire get him down, or stop his tire and repair center from serving the many elderly customers who have come to depend on it.
Despite an extensive investigation by firefighters in Marshall to discover what made Rodgers Exxon go up in flames July 3, Mr. Gaut told Tire Business Oct. 21 that they could not reach a conclusion as to the origin of the fire. They did determine the blaze began on a cement floor in a corner near a soda machine, “but it wasn't the pop machine that started it because the electric line was still plugged up to the motor,” he said.
The Marshall Fire Department (MFD) responded to a call near 10 p.m. that the business was engulfed in flames. The fire destroyed the front service area where tires and tire mounting equipment were kept, and an unknown number of tires caught on fire, according to William Kelley, Marshall's fire inspector.
Firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from spreading to the shop's three or four bays in a detached structure in the rear, where most of the mechanical work was done, Mr. Kelley said.
A former service station, Rodgers Exxon no longer contained gas pumps—they were removed in about 1989, Mr. Gaut said, some seven years after he took over ownership of the repair shop.
Mr. Gaut estimated damage to the building and contents—including equipment and inventory—was between $50,000 and $60,000.
“We're about a third of the way back to where we were before the fire,” he said, noting a lift is now installed and operating for oil changes and a tire machine was replaced so the outlet could do tire changes and flat repairs. A state-furnished sticker machine used for state vehicle inspections—a big part of the business—also has been replaced.
Although he got the outlet up and running again the first week of August, Mr. Gaut said he's still working on repairing structural damage, redoing wiring, replacing a bathroom area that was destroyed by fire as well as sections of the building's tin roof—“You can look up through the roof and see sky,” he said. He's had to temporarily move his office, previously in the front of the building, into the back by the garage area.
He expects construction to be completed by mid-November. Unfortunately, it's been slow going because Mr. Gaut had no insurance.
But he does have “wonderful customers. I have some constantly coming back for work to keep us going. They're really supportive.”
He said he does a lot of work for senior citizens in the area—“they're dependent on me, and have really come out to support us. Right now I'm just trying to get everything done.”
Much support and moral encouragement also has come from the town's Second Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where Mr. Gaut is active as a deacon.
Rodgers Exxon carries all major tire brands, including Goodyear, Bridgestone and General. Tire sales comprise 50 to 60 percent of the outlet's business and, Mr. Gaut added, “vehicle inspections are also a big part. They're keeping the business rolling.”
Contact Managing Editor Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk at [email protected] Senior Reporter Vera Linsalata contributed to this report.