"Mr. Gardner said in the 14 or 15 years he was here, he never heard anyone speak ill will about him," Mike Sims said.
A religious man who ran several service stations in town before opening his own tire center, their grandfather was "just happy to stay here and help people," Mike said.
"When people come in and we introduce ourselves as J.C. Lay's grandsons, they just light up," Mike said. "People say, 'I traded with your grandfather years ago.'"
With that kind of role model and a burning desire to become entrepreneurs, the Sims brothers have given up their jobs - Mike, as a manager in the cell-phone sales industry; and Chris, as assistant service manager at a major auto dealership - to strike out on their own and open Sims Tire & Performance.
Chris , who at 36 is 11 years older than Mike, had considered taking over the family business years ago but decided against it. This year, when Gardner told their mother, Janet Lay Sims, owner of the building, that he wanted to sell the business and retire, her sons decided it was time.
"A light came on, and here we are," Mike said.
"We got a lot of encouragement this time from family and friends," Chris said. "Everything came together. I must have meant to be, the way everything fell into place."
The deal has worked out well for their parents, too, the brothers said. Their mother, who is retired, has purchased her sister's interest in the building, and the lease payments will provide her with some income.
The two make good business partners
With his retail and office background and Chris' longtime love of all things automotive, the two make good business partners. "The majority of my experience is in the office," Mike said. "I only get out and turn a wrench when we're busy."
His brother, on the other hand, is a car guy.
"My brother always wanted to do this," Mike said. "Ever since he was teenager, he's been hanging over the front end of a car."
"I've had more cars than I care to count," Chris said. "We were counting one night and got up to 30 before I gave up."
As an avid reader of automotive magazines and a former employee at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Chris said the "engineering on cars fascinates me."
Chris said he's always been a "gear head."
He said when he was a boy he wanted a go-cart. One day, his father, Donnie, who's in the auction business, brought home a box of stuff that had a roto-tiller motor in it. He told Chris that if he could get the motor running, he would buy him a go-cart.
"The next day, when Dad came home, it was running across the driveway."
Mike said the brothers plan to build their new business around service.
"Our grandfather was in the business of helping people," he said. "We plan on taking the service concept to another level."
And the brothers hope to build on the foundation laid by their grandfather.
"Everybody who talks to Mom said, "Your dad would have been proud to have them out there," Mike said. "We know he would have been proud of us. We wish he could have lived to see it."
Chris said he hopes to interest his sons Blake, 16, and Chaise, 13, in the business.
"Hopefully, we can get another generation involved in this."