RICHMOND, Va. — Kay and Gary Allen know what you're thinking.
"There's no drama," they say in unison — through laughter, of course — on the phone from their office outside Richmond.
Is this married couple of 38 years talking about their home or their office?
"Neither," they respond, through more laughter.
They are like so many other couples deep into their fourth decade of marriage — laughing together, often finishing each other's sentences. What makes them unique is their co-ownership of Richmond-based Allen Tire Inc.
Mrs. Allen manages all the books for the operation, which has 55 employees at five locations. Mr. Allen manages the people, and by extension the sales and service.
"We can't decide whose job is worse," Mr. Allen said again as they both laughed. Then Mr. Allen quickly added he was "mostly" kidding.
• This story appeared in the Sept. 11 print edition of Tire Business.
Here is Mrs. Allen on making marriage and co-ownership work: "You have one service manager per job — that's for work, that's for home. Somebody always is the leader. We talk through it."
And here is Mr. Allen: "She is really, really good at what she does, and I'm good at what I do. So it's a perfect relationship."
They have known each other since both were children. Their fathers, Charlie Allen and Bill Nickels, worked together at a Firestone company store in Virginia for many years, and their families were good friends and spent time camping and doing other things together.
The elder Mr. Allen and Mr. Nickels eventually left Firestone and set up their own businesses near Richmond — Nickels Automotive and Allen Tire. The future Mr. and Mrs. Allen worked at their fathers' respective businesses in high school.
After high school, the pair got married at age 19. Not long after, Mr. Allen's mom, Rosalie — who did the bookkeeping for Allen Tire — needed help. Kay Allen received a job offer in her in-laws' business.