At a time when businesses frequently come and go, it’s rare to find one that’s been operating for three-quarters of a century. But come Friday, that’s exactly what you’ll find in Habersham County as Sutton Tire celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Begun in Cornelia in 1947, owner Lester L. Sutton worked at retreading tires, steam cooking them in molds that had to be changed every hour and a half. He slept on a cot nearby during the process. The company was relocated in 1951 to a building on 441 South in Clarkesville when Sutton ordered his own equipment from California. Within two years, the business grew enough that the company had to be moved a second time to its present location on Hwy 115.
Lester’s sons Clark and Brian both worked in the business, buying into the company over the years. Brian has since retired and Sutton Tire is now owned by Clark and Jeanine Sutton. Son-in-law Matt Farmer, with a background in business and sales, now oversees the day-to-day operations.
When asked why Sutton has remained successful for so many years, Farmer points out that while consumers can now purchase just about anything on Amazon and in the big box stores, they still like that personal touch.
“We’re always really busy, but what we do here is more than just taking care of customers’ cars. We want to make a real connection with people. We want them to know that we’re going to take care of their cars to keep them and their families safe.”
Sutton Tire’s commitment to service extends to at least one type of service they don’t provide – plugging tires.
“I didn’t really understand the specifics until Clark [Sutton] explained it to me,” Farmer says. “Plugging a tire does damage to the tire itself. It damages the structure of the tire, and that puts the people in the car at risk. We won’t do it, and we’ve lost customers because of it. But we don’t do shady work. We’re going to fix whatever needs to be fixed properly. If it’s a tire, we’ll repair it from the inside out.”
According to Farmer, Lester Sutton created the business based on three principals: honesty, integrity, and truth. Clark and Brian continued to run the business under the same principals. Farmer says he leads with those principals as well. “If you always do the right thing, you will always end up on top.”
Just as important as those principals is the desire to serve the community. “We serve our community. That’s important to us,” Farmer explains. “We really do care about what is happening in the lives of our customers.”
Farmer points out that the next 25 years are going to be a struggle for the company. “Tires aren’t going to change much in the future,” he says. “But cars will change, and technology will continue to improve. Those changes will come fast so we’ll have to think outside the box moving forward.”
The company has already begun updating equipment and providing training for their service personnel. Since there’s such a lack of people who can work on the technical issues of cars, Farmer plans to make sure Sutton Tire’s staff is ready for the challenge.
Sutton Tire invites the community to join in their anniversary celebration at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 10. State Rep. Victor Anderson will be there to present the business with a proclamation recognizing the occasion and State Sen. Bo Hatchett will be there as well. Chik-fil-A is providing food for the event.
Sutton Tire is located at 293 Monroe Street/Highway 115 in Clarkesville.