HUNT VALLEY, Md.He looks at the company not as a family business, but a business of 70 families, said Trey Huff about his father Jay, owner of Hunt Valley-based Brooks-Huff Tire & Auto Center, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
From the beginning, Brooks-Huff has been a family businessand a big part of the Huff family.
After working for Goodyear in the 1940s, John Huff met Ben Brooks, who was looking for a partner to open a shop. Seventy years later, Brooks-Huff Tire is still a well-known company name in the industry, with $10 million in annual sales and 76 employees.
Mr. Huff purchased Mr. Brooks' interest in 1954 after he became less active in the business.
He never changed the name because B comes before H in the telephone book, said Jay Huff, second generation owner of Brooks-Huff and son of John Huff.
Jay Huff said after getting out of school he worked as a farmer for a few years before realizing he was not earning enough money to support his family. So he joined the family business around 1972, then took over the dealership in 1976 after his father died from a heart attack.
Although Brooks-Huff began as a wholesale, commercial and retreading operation, through the years it has evolved, shedding the commercial segment completely in 1989.
Today, the dealership is a retail and wholesale tire and automotive service operation, Jay Huff told Tire Business.
It's also grown in size. Originally based in Baltimore, the dealership moved its headquarters in 1980 to Hunt Valley, which is about 20 miles north of Baltimore. Besides Hunt Valley, the company has outlets in Towson, Md. (opened in 1983), Timonium, Md. (opened in 1998), Shrewsbury, Pa. (opened 2003), and Leader Heights and Manchester, Pa. (both opened in 2006).
The Huff family legacy is not just about its years in business, but the long tenure many of its employees have with the dealership.
I have to keep an eye on him at the front counter because I don't want him to give the store away sometimes, Doug Meekins, general manager of Brooks-Huff Tire, joked about Jay Huff. He would give it all to the customers, too. You won't find a man on the face of this earth with a bigger heart.
Mr. Meekins became a part of the Brooks-Tire team almost 21 years ago and said he has stayed on because Mr. Huff treats him, along with all employees, like family.
We're happy and I think that's very much reflected on our customers, Mr. Meekins said. We have customers that literally have been coming to Brooks-Huff Tire Co. for 50-60 years.
Their kids and their kids' kids now are our customers.
This sentiment was shared by Billy Jones, service manager at Brooks-Huff Tire, who has been with the dealership for 37 years. He said that he had moved to Maryland from North Carolina and started working as a service technician and rose through the ranks. He said he continues to see customers who were mine back in the '80s.
(We're) still dealing with those same names; still dealing with some of their parents, Mr. Jones said. The clientele is like family, they've been coming here so long. And most people are on a first name basis.
Mr. Meekins said that when he first started working for Brooks-Huff, he saw the amount of charitable donations Mr. Huff had given out to the community and that he was not sure they were receiving the return on investment, but openly admits now how wrong he was.
There's not an organization in any of the communities around any of the storesthe police, the volunteer fire department, the Cub Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the local churches(that have not) come to us for their needs, he continued. We have never, ever said no to any of them.
Mr. Meekins shared one story that sums up the charitable nature of Mr. Huff. There used to be a man living near the North Hunt location who was a very giving person himself. He would collect bread, fruits and vegetables that were too old to sell from local grocery stores, but still edible, and deliver them to the soup kitchens and local shelters.
He said that since the man's car was at least 15 years old, Brooks-Huff never charged him for repairs.
We kept that vehicle running for him, in tip-top shape without ever charging him a dime to do that, Mr. Meekins noted.
Why do that?
Just because Jay felt it was the right thing to dogiving back for what the gentleman did for other people, Mr. Meekins answered.
Trey Huff agreed, stating the neighborhood and the community had so much respect for this gentleman.
He said that part of his job is preparing gift letters and helping with fundraisers and charitable organizations, and that's a job in itself.
We are a company based on honesty, integrity and pride, Trey Huff said. And the same morals and values we had 70 years ago apply today. That's what kept us in business.
Brooks-Huff Tire plans to have a party to commemorate its 70th anniversary, where they will invite back some of its retirees and supplier friends.
Jay Huff said plans for the future include keeping the organization in the family. He said he has three children and one grandchild who are already working for the dealership.
Our goal would be to continue to have a family-operated Brooks-Huff Tire Co.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143.