The expression, “It’s the end of an era,” is overused. But it applies to the closure and sale of Model Tire Store on Main Avenue.
It was already a tire store before it took on the Model name in 1925. Pete Bukovec bought the business in the 1930s, and it remained in the family, operated by Richard and Edith Bukovec, until closing in March.
The Durango icon stands now, behind locked doors, as a kind of museum of the automobile age. Above the wood floors, among the old maps and photos on the wall, there is history in the building, as distinctive as the smell of new tires that still line the shelves on either side of the narrow aisle.
The only digital display in the office is a clock, and while the business processed credit cards, there is no point-of-sale computer to generate invoices and receipts. But there are tools, hand tools necessary in the days before pneumatic tire mounting machines and computer balancers, when tires – with innertubes – were manhandled on and off steel wheels with tire irons, and balanced on a bubble device, where getting it right was a process three parts experience, one part art. It was tough, physical shop work, where working with truck tires on split-rim wheels was a regular hazard; a mistake while inflating one could put a man in the hospital, or even the cemetery.
The corner lot that used to be the height of convenience is no longer a great location for a tire store. Folks head further north to JP Tire, Peerless or Firestone, or to the south end of town, where Big O, Discount Tire and Wal Mart’s tire store share a square mile of convenient real estate with grocery shopping, restaurants, a Durango Joes and a liquor store.
CrossFit Catacombs, a fitness gym, plans to move in this summer, after making some interior and exterior changes. But the new owners plan to keep much of the Model Tire identity, including the advertising mural on the north wall of the shop, with its Michelin Man, that boasts of “24-hour Wrecker Service.”
“There is nothing more we would like to do than restore (the building) to its historic nature,” Tom Holcomb said.
We applaud his intentions because we find it important in Durango to preserve our connections with the past, even when they seem to be on a shallow, surface level.
In Blue Meridian, writing about Australian aborigine culture, Peter Mathiessen writes about the value assigned by modern culture to ancient art and symbols, and how they become more popular even as the culture that created them dies away.
So it seems on a recent scale with the historic building we called Model Tire, especially in light of the changes coming to this end of Main. Avenue, like the proposed four-story apartment building. We find it ironic that just a block south from Model Tire the old full-service gas station, more recently a home to a travel agency and a smoke shop, is being “restored” to look like a service station again.
Of course, it won’t be one. The building will serve as a backdrop to a very modern restaurant concept involving food trucks.
We welcome the ventures. At the same time, we will be missing Model Tire.