Williams Service celebrates 50 years
Started as 1-person operation, didn’t stay that way long
A lot has changed in Rodney Williams’ life since he opened Williams Service in 1962. He married his wife, Twilah, started a family, moved the business, expanded it, then scaled back operations, all while semi truck technology has changed dramatically. One thing that has been steady for more than 40 of the 50 years he has been in business is his desk calculator.
“It still adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides,” he said Monday.
His calculator hasn’t been the only stable part of the business, though. Twilah has kept the business’ books since she married Williams in 1963. And a significant chunk of Williams Service’s 15 employees have worked there for multiple decades. One of those long-time employees, Nick Zogelman, talked about the reliability of working at Williams Service.
“I’ve never missed a paycheck, never been laid off,” he said.
With 50 years of history, it should be no surprise that Williams Service is no fly-by-night operation. Williams opened the business as a one-man International truck parts dealer and repair shop in May 1962 after his previous employer closed.
“I could just barely get two trucks in it back then,” he said.
When the business moved from its original site on the hill to its current location at the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 50, Williams had two other mechanics in the business. Williams was nowhere near done expanding the business, though. Facilities have been expanded multiple times, and at its largest, Williams Service had about 28 employees, including five truck drivers who hauled petroleum products out of El Dorado – fuel oil in winter and asphalt in summer. He also added sales of semi tractors, not just parts.
As it was when the business opened, repairs and parts are the biggest aspect of the business now, but just a few years ago truck sales were the biggest part of Williams Service. The recession and stricter emission standards have slowed truck sales in recent years, but Williams expects that will have to turn around eventually.
He estimates he has about 250 regular customers, with about 170 that do enough business with him that they receive a statement every month. Most of his customers are from out of town, with regulars as far away as Houston, Texas, and some irregulars in Canada. Williams credited a big part of the business’ success to the people he has worked with for years.
“You can measure your assets in dollars and cents, but you also have to measure your assets in dependable help,” he said. “Without dependable help, you don’t have nothing.”
Williams Service will have an open house and serve pulled pork sandwiches to celebrate 50 years in business from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at the business, 1101 Main St., Florence.