J.W. Smith Sr. opened his Sinclair Station in the fork of Milledgeville Road and 15th St. in Augusta in 1936. Through the years, J.W. established himself as an honest mechanic who delivered the best possible work at reasonable prices. J.W. and his service station have since faded into history, but the standards he set for honesty and professionalism live on through four generations of Smiths and two automobile service companies -- Smitty's Auto Service and Smith's Tire Company -- with the slogan, "Our Family Serving Yours Since 1936".
Today, J.W. Smith's grandson J.W. "Chuck" Smith III operates Smitty's Auto Service at 1428 Gordon Highway and grandson Darren operates Smith's Tire Company across the street at 1417 Gordon Highway. Continuing a family tradition, they took over the businesses from their father, J.W. "Jimmy" Smith Jr., in 1995 when he stepped away from the business to devote his energy to serving the community he felt had served his family so well. Chuck Jr., a graduate of Augusta State University, has also joined the business.
Jimmy began working in his father's Shell Station at age 10 during World War II. His early duties included sweeping floors and wiping windshields after school and during the summer. At age 14, an event transpired that put Jimmy in the front seat of the business.
"One thing that sticks in my mind," he remembers, "is a lady coming into the station to buy a gallon of gas from our elderly mechanic. He couldn't get the car to start, so he tried to put some gas in the carburetor and the engine caught fire, severely burning him."
Jimmy's father, J.W. Sr., suffered burns trying to help the mechanic and was temporarily unable to work. Jimmy recalls, "I had to stay out of school for three months to help out."
J.W. Sr. retired in 1964 and Jimmy opened a new service station on Peach Orchard Road. He purchased the property at 1428 Gordon Highway in 1967 and the business has operated from there without interruption since.
Jimmy's two sons, Chuck and Darren, have continued the legacy of their grandfather and father.
"My grandfather started Smitty's Auto. My father worked for his father. I worked for my father until he retired and now my son (any my wife) work with me," says Chuck. "In fact, the one tool I could not run my business without is my family. My wife is my best friend. She is the glue that keeps the family and business together. And my son is the No. 1 technician and shop foreman."
Jimmy, who has spent the 10 years since his retirement serving the community, presently serves as the District 8 representative on the Augusta-Richmond County Board of Commissioners and has been an activist in the fight to help his beloved South Richmond County prosper.
Chuck says, "My father gave us a solid foundation to build on. He always taught us to give a customer a dollars worth of service for every dollar we charge."
Continuing the family tradition of community service, Chuck has served as local and state president of the ASA (Automotive Service Association), has been a board member of the Better Business Bureau and is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church.
The quality service Smitty's provides is apparent. The walls of the waiting room are decorated with years of ASC (Automotive Service Council of Georgia) awards for outstanding service, and countless certificates of qualification. Anyone in the waiting room can be reassured their car is in good hands.
Both garages are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) and MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society) certified. The shops also carry the coveted A/C Delco Total Service Support Center designation, reflecting the Smith's commitment to continued education and training.
Chuck says, "We are proud to be a part of the AC Delco TSS Program. Delco has some of the best training in the world and we utilize it as often as possible. My biggest challenge in business is keeping up with changes in technology and regulations. Our national affiliations help us stay current."
Smitty's 70 year history is a testament to the qualities that have made the business successful. At Smitty's you'll find that quality and professionalism are not just words, but a way of doing business. Stop by either shop at 1428 or 1417 Gordon Highway and experience the family atmosphere for yourself.
Chuck Smith says, "I tell our staff every day that our customers have to pass a lot of shops to get to us. My philosophy is simple: care first for our customers, and second for their cars. Referrals and trust are far more important than advertising. In today's world, it is hard to find anyone who cares, so we make sure we care for our customers first.
"We take great pride in our 70-year tradition. It is almost unheard of for a company like ours to survive that long under the same ownership and management. And it all goes back to the thousands of dedicated customers we have had over the years. Without them, there would be no history."
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