When the noon whistle sounded Tuesday, Butch Miller put down his lug wrench for good. Diane Miller laid down her pencil.
The owners of M & M Tire & Auto closed early on New Year’s Eve. When the business opens on Thursday it will be under new owners.
But don’t expect many changes. Butch and Diane are now retired but the business at 400 N. Buckeye Avenue was transferred to new owners Dustin and Sarah Miller. Dustin, their son, has been an integral part of the business for the last 19 years. Sarah joined the office staff in 2004 and has been gradually assuming responsibility for the office management, financial operations and personnel.
The change took place officially on New Year’s Day.
“We have decided it is time to retire and spend more time with family,” Diane said. “Although the stock holders and corporate officers will be different, there is no change planned in the management and policies of the company. Dustin and Sarah, along with the existing staff, will continue the reputation and service levels that we have built over the last 23 years.” the Millers said in a statement.
Wayne, who everyone knows as Butch, started working on vehicles and farm machinery out of necessity, growing up on a farm in South Dakota near Epiphany.
The farm equipment and cars were to be taken into town to be serviced which was expensive.
Then Butch picked up a wrench and became the mechanic.
“Dad would normally change the oil once a year,” Butch said.
His dad’s motto was ‘don’t fix it unless it’s broke.”
Now Butch recommends an oil and filer change every 3,000 miles.
“Back then, they were pretty simple. You didn’t have to have all the computer equipment,” Butch said. “If you don’t have a computer now, you are out of luck.”
Then, vehicles were often fixed by a process of elimination.
Butch and Diane were high school sweethearts and got married before Butch left for service in Vietnam.
His trip back to Kansas was through Fort Riley.
Butch said he met Bob Vandecreek of Abilene in Vietnam 50 years ago and they became good friends.
Vandecreek was working for Kenneth Fager at Fager Repair north of Abilene.
“Butch spent a lot of time at that shop when he was finishing out his last year of service,” Diane said.
The couple returned to South Dakota but there were no jobs there. They returned to Abilene and Butch started working for Fager who hired him over the phone in February 1971.
When the former gas/service/tire station came up for sale on Buckeye, Diane’s brother Don Nebelsick, owner of Don’t Tire, bought it and worked out an agreement for Diane and Butch to operate it. The idea was to keep the business local rather than have an out-of-state owner.
“He and I had talked about this for quite a while about opening this place up,” Butch said. “He said, ‘Would you be interested?’ I said yes.”
“We started from scratch,” Diane said.
The couple plans to travel and visit grandchildren in retirement.
“We have grandkids we can watch,” Butch said. “That will be more fun than anything.”
Dustin started working part-time in the business at the age of 16.
“We feel the new ownership will be a seamless transition for our customers and are confident the company will continue to thrive under Dustin and Sarah’s leadership. We have enjoyed serving the local community and are thankful for the support and confidence shown over the years,” Diane said.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.