Harry Staley let out a slight chuckle when asked about the weight of keeping his two Montana tire shops open and his employees paid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've been in business for 40-plus years, ..." he said. "We're sort of prepared for anything."
His sentiment is common among tire shop owners and employees around the country: We're in this together, and we'll get through it.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to re-adjust their lives, and the world will never quite be the same again.
The global population is going through an unprecedented time. There is a sense of helplessness and fear: How do I keep my family safe? Will my job still exist next month? When will all of this end? And when it does end, will it come back?
What happens if I run out of toilet paper?
In the future, this time will be a benchmark for when things were at their worst: Like the Great Recession, 9/11 and those other moments that tested the fortitude of the U.S.
For generations, when someone refers to 2020, we'll all know what he or she is talking about.
For the tire industry — everyone, really — right now is going to be a true test of one's mettle.
And there's no easy way to say it: It's time to step up or give up.
Unemployment has skyrocketed — over 16 million initial benefit claims as of this writing — as many businesses have been deemed non-essential. Now, many of those claims are temporary due to furloughs and should drop significantly once many of those "non-essential" businesses are allowed to open again.
But not everyone will come out of this with a job, and not every business will survive.
We at Tire Business watched tire dealers and auto repair shop owners around the country do a collective sigh of relief when these businesses was deemed "essential" by the federal government.
The story we posted on tirebusiness.com was read by more than 60,000 people and shared by nearly 1,000 on Facebook.
Tire and automotive repair shops are essential. Transportation of goods and the need for reliable emergency vehicles is very important, and things would crumble quickly if there wasn't a skilled person there to keep those vehicles running.
The hardest part for tire shops is that with everyone following stay-at-home orders, retail foot traffic is way down. It's great to be deemed essential, but that doesn't put money in the cash register.
Of course, the tire industry is tough as nails. And the tire shops and industry insiders interviewed by Tire Business prove that to be the case.
When you put your blood, sweat and tears into your business, you're prepared to face anything — even a global pandemic.
There have been layoffs, sure, but mostly shops are reducing employees' hours so everyone can still get a paycheck. Great shop owners usually have great employees who are dedicated and invested in seeing the business be a success. It's more than a tire shop, it's a part of the community.
And those employees understand that the way everyone perseveres through this is with a shared sacrifice.
When life returns to normal — whatever the new normal looks like — will you look back proudly in how you faced it?