Smitty’s Dual Wheels has a new name, Smitty’s Tire and Auto, and new owners, Joe and Taylor Mann, but the service and staff will remain the same.
Steve and Diana Torbet have owned and operated Smitty’s Dual Wheels outside Rossville since 1975.
Diana’s father, Eugene ‘Smitty’ Smith, started the business in 1963 when he moved to the farm the business is located on.
“It started real small with dual wheels that’s why it was called Smitty’s Dual Wheels,” she said. “That’s what he started doing, he made them himself.”
Diana said the business just started growing and growing because there wasn’t much in the way of competition around the area for that kind of service.
When Diana and Steve returned to the area in 1975, they took over the business and co-owned it with Diana’s brother, Gary, when the business got too big for her father. Diana’s brother would pass away nine months later due to an accident.
The business continued to grow and do well under the Torbets.
Diana marveled at the longevity of the business.
“It’s kind of amazing that a business that started in 1963 out of just a little block building with my dad welding tires has grown to this today,” she said. “But its done well and we thank the Lord for that.”
After more than 45 years running the business, the Torbets were ready to hand the reins over to new owners.
“We’re 73, we’re ready for retirement,” she said. “We didn’t want to keep working.”
She said the choices were to either keep working until we couldn’t work any more, close the business or sell it and they didn’t want to close the business.
“We just felt this area needs a business like ours,” she said.
The Torbets didn’t have to look far to find the new owners of the business.
Diana said Joe Mann has worked for Smitty’s for about five years now and wasn’t interested in finding a new job.
“He didn’t want to go anywhere and start a new job, so we asked him if he thought he’d want to buy it from us and he said he sure would,” she said.
Over the last six weeks, Diana said they’ve been getting all of the legal work done to sell the business to Mann and he’s changed the name of the business to Smitty’s Tire and Auto LLC.
Diana said they’re just training the new office staff member and they’ll be done.
As for their plans for retirement, Diana said they hope to travel.
“We hope to travel a little more,” she said.
Diana said they also care for her mother, who is 93, so that will be their primary focus for the time being.
She said they spend time in Florida each year and they’ll probably extend their stay down there at some point.
While the name of the business has changed, Mann, who purchased the business with his wife, Taylor, doesn’t plan on making any major changes to the services the business provides.
“We’re going to keep everything relatively the same,” he said. “Just carry it on the way they would have wanted it done and the way they have been doing it.”
Mann assured customers that Roger Osborn is still with the business.
Diana said Osborn is Joe’s right-hand man.
She said Osborn has been running the business for them for a long-time.
Diana said health issues have required Osborn to only work part-time, but he remains an integral part of the business.
“He’s Joe’s right-hand man,” she said. “He’ll still be here to answer the phone and answer questions and that kind of thing.”
Mann said all the same employees will be working there to serve the many loyal customers the business has from around the region from as far as Paxton to Cissna Park to Gifford to communities in Indiana.
Diana said the business offers on-the-farm service and has a service truck that travels to meet customer’s needs.
Diana pointed out that the business is now seeing the third generation of customers from when her father started the business.
“We’re seeing the third generation of what my dad started with,” she said. “The guys that he started with we’re seeing their grandsons now. It’s passed three generations. It’s been fun to watch that too.”
Smitty’s Tire & Auto is located at 6901 E 3550 N Rd outside of Rossville. Business hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays. To learn more call (217) 748-6138.