One of the longest running business on Main Avenue, Model Tire Store, plans to close in March.
For many years, the Bukovec family business was one of the only places in town for tires and tow-truck services, owner Edith Bukovec said.
The Model Tire crew was called to tow vehicles that slid off U.S. Highway 550 passes near Silverton, an airplane that buried into the mud off the runway and countless other calls.
In one case, a semitrailer lost control and crashed into a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive in the 1980s, said Brian Little, a former employee and nephew.
The semitrailer lost its brakes and barreled into the train yard, he said. The driver of the truck survived, but the truck lost its load.
“It blew spuds out the corner of the trailer, all over,” he said.
In the end, the public was allowed to come help pick up the potatoes, which was a relief for Little and others.
Visitors to Model Tire can find much of the store’s history in the lobby, including antique tools and a copy of the store’s 1930s pricing schedule.
“My father-in-law never believed in getting rid of anything, and then my husband kind of fell in his footprints,” Bukovec said.
The many photos on display recall the building’s history.
It was originally a saloon constructed in 1883. Later, it was a secondhand store, tinsmith, laundry, auto repair shop and Foley’s Tire Store.
In 1925, the name of the business changed to Model Tire Store and in the 1930s Pete Bukovec brought it.
Pete’s son, Richard, later took it over, said Edith Bukovec, who married Richard in 1974.
Richard started working at the store when he was 12. At 14, he delivered tires to Dolores, Pagosa Springs, Chama and other regional towns until he was stopped by law enforcement.
After that, his grandfather had to ride along, Bukovec recalled.
On her first wrecker call in 1964, Richard asked if she wanted to ride along.
“I thought we were going after a car,” she recalled. “I didn’t ever dream we were going after a dead horse.”
She became a partner in the business in 1979 and worked at the store part-time as a bookkeeper, in sales, and in the shop unloading, changing and recapping tires by painting worn-out tires with rubber so the tread could be replaced. She also helped build the office, the garage and put in a new floor.
In addition to helping at the store, she worked as a service representative at the Mountain Bell Telephone Co., which became U.S. West, from 1958 until it closed its Durango office 1983. After the telephone company office closed, she became more involved at Model Tire.
Over the years, the store’s services changed. It stopped recapping and delivering tires many years ago. In 2007, the store got out of the tow-truck business.
In 2009, Richard’s health declined and Edith had to run the store without him. It has been challenging, she said. Overseeing men was tough, and the store has much more competition now.
She does all of her accounting by hand, and you won’t find a desktop computer in the shop, although the store does have a credit- and debit-card reader. Her suppliers expect the store to place orders online, which can be a problem.
“I never dreamed of having to run a tire store,” said the 77-year-old.
Although she’s learned a lot and she’s proud of the service she’s provided to longtime customers who trust her, it’s not something she wants to be doing at 80, she said.
She recently sold the building, and she declined to name the buyer or the price. She also plans to sell most of the building’s inventory and memorabilia as well.
“It’s time to let some of it go,” she said.
Customers are invited to celebrate the closing from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 10 at the store, 1162 Main Ave.