AYDEN, N.C. (June 6, 2016) — At 105 years old, Tripp's Tire Pros has been around long enough to repair tires and wagon wheels side-by-side, and in fact did so for a number of years.
The company — which has its roots in a blacksmith shop founded by Caleb Tripp Sr. in 1889 — claims to have repaired the first flat tire in Ayden at a time when automotive service was in its infancy.
“There were very few vehicles back in 1911, and we're a small town,” said Tony Tripp, fourth generation owner of his family's business. “When the business was a blacksmith shop, that's where the cars went to get tires fixed because nobody knew how to do it.”
As the story goes, Ayden's first doctor, Joe Dixon, established residency in the town in 1910 and became the town's first automobile owner. When his car suffered its first flat tire in 1911, he contacted the Tripp family's blacksmith shop.
After repairing the doctor's flat, N.C. Tripp, Caleb Tripp's brother, saw an opportunity to grow the business, setting up an automotive repair business in the back of the blacksmith shop, then hired his brothers Charlie and Hent Tripp to work with him.
In 1925, the company established its own identity, moving out of the blacksmith shop to a separate building nearby and taking the name Tripp's Garage. The repair shop, formerly the location of the Odd Fellows Lodge, still features the letters FLT prominently displayed on its front, representing the lodge's motto: Friendship, Love and Truth.
“When we painted the building my dad decided to paint those letters because he thought it was a good motto,” Mr. Tripp told Tire Business. “...He just liked it—he liked what it stood for and wanted to leave it there because it was part of the history of the building. That was the impression I got.”
According to Mr. Tripp, one of the most distinguishing features of the original building—which the company still owns and uses—was its two-story layout and a four-cable elevator used to carry automobiles to the second floor to be repaired.
“There was only one pit up there (mechanics) could work under,” Mr. Tripp said. “Most everything was done under the car back in those days. You didn't work under the hood—you worked under the car to access the engine.”