This morning I got a flat tire – on my own driveway!Â After putting on the spare, I threw the punctured tire in the trunk and started the drive to Kapaa on the rain-slicked highway – not the most fun thing on a spare “donut” tire.Â I live in Kilauea on the north shore, a good twenty minutesÂ to the nearest tire shop.
There, I was greeted by the elderly proprietor, the only one manning the shop. Ten minutes and $16.65 later, my punctured tire was as good as new, same as every time I’ve come in here with a flat tire over the past 14 years.
While paying, I asked the gentleman how things were going.Â “Not great,” he replied. “My daughter keeps buggin’ me to retire, but who can retire when business is like this.”
“Business not good?” I queried.
“No one buys tires from us anymore,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Everybody goes to Lihue, so they can save $5 a tire.Â They forget to add in the extra gas, and the extra time it takes them to get there.”
I thought guiltily of my own tire-buying habits. This business provides a service thatÂ I’m profoundly grateful for when I’m in need, but I’ve never given a thought to reciprocating, to help support the business when it’s in need.Â OF COURSEÂ the big-box retailers are cheaperâ€”there’s nothing genius about being able to buy in bulk.
But is it worth an extra $30 every couple of years for meÂ to not have to drive another harrowing 10 miles on a spare donut tire? And, if we were to think about it, how many other small businesses would decrease the quality of our lives were they to close their doors?
“We’re going to try sticking it out,” the old man said.Â “We’ve got to.”
I know where I’m buying my next set of tires.