By Stan Maddux
GREENFIELD, Ind. — Farmers from a wide area could always rely on Riley Park Tire to get them out of a jam caused by a flat on a tractor, combine or any other piece of machinery working the fields.
The name of the tire service company for automobiles and farm machinery hasn’t changed but there’s a new owner of what’s been a central Indiana fixture since 1963.
The company had just two bays when Jim Helgason first opened the doors in 1963. It now has 20 bays. During that time the workforce climbed from two to 40. Service personnel also respond to farms, even in surrounding states like Ohio and Kentucky, to slap on new tires usually in stock when called upon.
“We send our trucks out to get them up and get them going,” said Jeff Helgason, who took over for his father in 1990.
Helgason said the decision to sell was “super tough” but one his father wanted him to make several years ago. Helgason said he grew tired of working 12-hour days, six to seven days week, for the past 30-years.
“He could see me wearing down,” he said.
Jim Helgason said his father, Clarence, was a district manager for Goodyear and he worked in one of the Goodyear stores during the summer while growing up. His intent after graduating from high school, though, was to become a dentist when he enrolled at Indiana University.
After earning his bachelor’s degree and being accepted into dental school, Helgason said he realized just how much he enjoyed the tire business and opened a tire service center in Shelbyville, Ind.
He later opened the store in Greenfield after recognizing a need in the community.
“I had that tire blood in me,” he said.
Farm tires represented about one-third of the store’s business. The shop also gave alignments and other service in areas like brakes and shocks.
Jim was active in the business until about 15 years ago but still stopped in every day to lend advice or be of use in some other way, if needed. He later began living in Florida for about six months a year. He credited his son for much of the growth in the business.
Jeff said it wasn’t easy handing over the keys on July 19, but he was ready to begin smelling the roses. His bucket list includes spending more time with family and doing things he never had time to do like going to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. He also plans to play more golf with his spry 80-year-old father.
Helgason said he’s also employed by the company as a consultant and will stay in touch with some of their major customers to take care of their needs. “It’s not like I’m just walking away from it. I’m just not going to be in there from the morning until the night every day,” he said.
Riley Park Tire was purchased by Best One of Indy, which has more than a dozen tire service centers throughout central Indiana. Helgason said he was also swayed to sell because Best One has the same commitment as he and his father to customers and employees.
“We got a lot of loyal customers who like the way we treat them, and our service is good, and they come back. They trust us,” he said.
One of his tire customers later became his wife after the pair met each other at the store in the early 1990s.
The relationship he had with his father at the store is what he cherishes the most. He said they worked well together and every day at the shop had lunch together. Father and son also live next to each other five minutes from the business.
“Not many people can work with their dad. Be partners with their dad. Be best friends with their dad. We’ve had a great run,” he said.