ROCKINGHAM — “Where I’m at now is where I grew up.”
These are the words of auto mechanic Edwin Nichols, who started his own business in February called On The Road Again. Although aptly named, its Nichols’ own personal road that got him back on his childhood property.
His shop is located off of Old Charlotte Highway — right beside the house he grew up in — and from the moment he turned 16 and got his driver’s license, he went to work.
“My first job was with a guy that we went to church with — his name was Marion Adams. His business was Adams Gulf, which is now the Pure station across from Biscuitville. He was a well-known auto mechanic in this area. I’ve seen him take in enough work on a Monday to keep the shop busy all week,” said Nichols. “My job whenever I started there was to pump the gas and washing cars and doing very minor mechanical. His brother once referred to that business as a boot camp for auto mechanics, and that was a good description of it.
“I worked there for four years,” he continued. “My momma and daddy did all their business there. She came home after buying gas and said Marion wants to put you to work. There wasn’t any filling out a job application, pee test or nothing, you walk in and you went to work. If you were there, you worked.”
It was because of working for Adams and on his family’s farm that Nichols said he developed a strong work ethic. According to Nichols, Adams would tell his employees no matter how hard they worked, it was never enough.
Adams sold the station in 1980 in order to open his own garage behind his house. Unfortunately he suffered from a heart attack and passed away shortly after doing so. That was when Nichols moved to Firestone in the Richmond Plaza shopping center on Feb. 4, 1980. He would stay until Dec. 31 of last year.
“That was a really good company in the beginning. It was a family owned business,” said Nichols. “They sold it to Bridgestone in 1988. I found out what corporate America was and what it was like to become a number instead of a person. It got to the point where I hated getting up and going to work so as soon as I had my time in with them to be able to leave and draw my benefits, that’s what I did and this is where I’m at.”
So in May of 2015, concrete was poured and by January a new building with two bays was built and opened a month later. The only thing missing was a name.
“I had this in the back of my mind for a long time,” he said. “I’d been collecting equipment and whatnot planning this, and one day — I listen to country music all the time and Willie’s Roadhouse is my favorite station — that song came on and I said, ‘That’s it.’ That needs to be the name of my business cause everybody, I don’t care who they are, when they give up that car, they can’t wait to get it back — even if it’s just to take it home and park it in the yard. They can’t wait to get back on the road again.”
When the new business first started out, Nichols didn’t have plans on starting a full-fledged business. His intention was to “do something here under the radar cause I am retired.” But one thing turned into another, he said, and now On The Road Again can and has seen up to 30 cars in a week. Enough for Nichols to bring his daughter, Laura, on as office manager.
The shop offers air conditioner and brake work, as well as minor repairs, but Nichols’ favorite thing to do is wheel alignments. Through the years he said he’s gained a good reputation for it. Above all else though, he’s just happy to be home again.
Said Nichols, “There’s nowhere else that I know of on God’s green earth that I’d rather be than right here.”
On The Road Again is open from 8 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on Old Charlotte Highway in Rockingham.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.