Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chapter 1..........Introduction...........The History of Dixie Sales Company

The History of Dixie Sales Company


“The challenge is not just to build a company that can endure,
but to build one that is worthy of enduring.”     Jim Collins

Every business has its own history.  Most business histories are short or moderate in length.  For any business to survive for a hundred years or more is an extremely rare occurrence. 

An organization’s life cycle consists of four stages: startup, growth, maturity and decline.  But a life cycle is not always a continuous journey in one direction.  Companies, like products and industries, tend to go through multiple cycles of growth, maturity and decline as new products or services are introduced, new or adjacent markets are penetrated and/or new businesses are acquired.

Vicki TenHaken, a professor of management at Hope College in Holland, MI, determined that of the 6,022,000 active businesses listed in the 2006 Census, only about 540 or .00897 percent were over 100 years old.  She believed that if her data base were consistently updated, the total percentage of companies more than 100 years old would never approach a half a percent of the total.

Her study determined there were five common attributes that help account for business longevity:
  • 100 year old companies have a strong core ideology and corporate values that drive their business.
  • They protect core/unique strengths through a balance of maintaining tradition with continuous improvement and innovation.
  • They develop true partnerships with their constituents and constantly learn from these relationships.
  • They make Investments in developing employees, with a particular emphasis on leadership succession.
  • They practice conservative financing.
Surviving and Thriving - Positive Response to Change
I believe that Charles Darwin’s statement about the survival of species translates easily to the survival of businesses.  Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one most responsive to change.” 

Ordinary men like Frank Snyder and his son-in-law Jack Starmer and family members and managers that followed them met change head-on:  They survived an explosion in 1922 that would have put most companies out of business; they faced The Great Depression and the personal and business lean times that came before and afterward; the economic and personal effects of World War I and II;  they changed the focus of the company to automotive parts and accessories and drive-in general automotive service from the tire business in the 1940’s and 1950’s; they refocused the business on outdoor power equipment parts and accessories in the early 1970’s; and reached the pinnacle of national reputation and success in the Outdoor Power Equipment industry in the 1990’s into the early 21st Century.  They took prudent calculated chances and accepted occasional failure as a part of their growing and learning experience

Even today, with professional management in place, the Company is challenging the old buy-sell model between a distributor and a manufacturer with a focus on providing product and brand value-added service support from which manufacturers, retailers and their customers receive great value and benefits.  

Chapter 2..........1910 - 1914...........The History of Dixie Sales Company

This is the story of Dixie Sales Company and a few of the people who helped make it successful and survive for over 100 years.

January 23, 1910 – The Beginning
Dixie Rubber Company began business in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 23, 1910.  Contrary to common belief, Dixie Sales was not founded by the Snyder/Starmer families in 1914.  The business actually opened under different ownership four years earlier in 1910.  After working for the Canadian-Dunlop Tire Company and the Schenectady (NY) Vulcanizing Works, Joseph Leahy began a search in late 1909 for a location in the United States to open his own vulcanizing (tire repair) business. 

In the Sunday, December 12, 1909 edition of the Greensboro Daily News, the following article was written about Mr. J. Leahy and why and how he came to Greensboro, NC:

PRACTICAL RESULTSIt is a matter of pleasure when this paper can say a good word or do a good thing for its home city – Greensboro.  It is a matter of pride when its efforts bring practical results.  All such results are hard to locate definitely, as much good may result indirectly and still remain in the practical column.

In October (1909) we issued a large edition, profusely illustrated and elaborately setting forth many of the successful enterprises here.  That edition went all over the country, and has already borne fruit.  A newcomer, Mr. J. Leahy, from Schenectady, N.Y., tells the Daily News that it was the aforementioned edition, a copy of which he saw in Schenectady that induced him to come to Greensboro.  He likes the city and will remain, opening up an automobile repair and vulcanizing works.  He tells us that several of his acquaintances probably a dozen or more, will follow him here, and in all probability make this city their future home.  This is what we may properly term practical results; and this is the kind of immigration the south wants and needs.  It shows the value of a newspaper that goes away from home, and the value of advertising the advantages of home and the home section in such.  And this is not merely shop talk paper (sic) we are indulging in.

The result is Greensboro’s profit.  The city offers the opportunity and this paper, while harboring a pardonable feeling of pride, is only an incidental factor – a factor that will continue to make itself felt in every legitimate way possible for the further advancement of the fair city of Greensboro.  The paper itself is a standing advertisement – six days in the week – for Greater Greensboro, jealous of the city’s good name and proud of its achievements.

There is nothing too good for Greensboro; and there is no task too arduous for the Daily News to undertake that has for its aim greater success for this city, and work with all its energy and might to accomplish.”

After reading good things about Greensboro, NC in the special edition published by the Greensboro Daily News in October of 1909, Leahy decided that a personal investigation of the city’s offerings was in order.   He arrived in Greensboro later in October.  He felt that the warm climate and friendly people would suit his expectations perfectly.  Since there was no master vulcanizer between Richmond and Atlanta, Greensboro car dealers were in desperate need of someone to repair tires locally for their car customers.  Flat tires and tire punctures on cars were a common occurrence in those days due to the rough nature of local roads.  Leahy knew business should definitely be good.

Leahy returned to Greensboro in December of 1909 and after a month of preparations, Dixie Rubber Company was open and ready for business on January 23, 1910.  Mr. Leahy had taken over the lease at a building formerly occupied and owned by the J. Ed Albright Plumbing Company located at 214 West Market Street. 

In the January 23, 1910 Greensboro Daily News, the following article appeared, entitled AUTO TIRES MADE NEW – NEW INDUSTRY FOR GREENSBORO:

Not one of a kind which every city, town or village possess form one to several, but one of the very few in the Southland – the only one between Richmond, Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Dixie Rubber Co., J. Leahy, proprietor, recently located in the premises, 214 W. Market Street, lately occupied by the J. Ed Albright Plumbing Co., is an institution of much interest not only to the people of Greensboro, but for hundreds of miles around, especially so to all owning automobiles.  The facilities installed for the repair and vulcanization of auto tires is not surpassed outside of the largest tire factories.  The News man didn’t see much in front and wasn’t much impressed by what he did see, but on being led rearward and downward, his surprise and interest increased as each new piece of strange machinery was pointed out.  Sectional vulcanizers – the only way to describe them is “go and look at them.”  Tube Vulcanizer – a long flat, plank-like affair.  A recovering Kettle, weighing one and one-half tons.  These machines are run by a 16-horsepower boiler in the basement.  The Giant Compressor and Compressor Tank (for testing purposes) and the Buffer and Grinder for tearing off old rubber and fabric from tires to be repaired – driven by a 5-horse power electric motor, are also in the basement. 

In the repair of an Auto Tire the rubber and fabric for several inches on either side of the fracture is removed and new fabric and rubber is molded in after the tire is placed in the vulcanizer and cured – comng out with an entirely new place where lately was a hole, giving the owner hundreds of miles of service that otherwise he would lose. 

But as the Automobile is of only secondary importance to the Baby Buggy, in the estimation of the baby and its doting parents, a very unique little machine has been installed for the purpose of applying new tires to the little carriage or Go-Cart “while you wait.”

Mr. Leahy has been in the rubber tire business since the days of the solid tire bicycle and is a thoroughly practical man in all branches of pneumatic tire making and repairing.  As he is also an auto man he can tell pretty closely the cause of the various types of tire troubles brought to his notice.

The “News” is taking upon itself considerable credit for the part its Industrial Number played in adding this industry to the many other good things in Greensboro.  While Mr. Leahy was considering the claims of various southern cities, a copy of the “News” (industrial Number) fell into his hands.  After reading the good things, he decided to make a personal investigation, which he did the latter part of October, 1909. The various Auto dealers gave him strong encouragement, and Messrs. C.D. Benbow and R.C. Hood formed themselves into a chamber of commerce for the purpose of informing Mr. Leahy of advantages of the South, North Carolina in general, Greensboro in particular. 

Mr. Hood with horse and buggy, took Mr. Leahy around the various points of interest and practically settled matters, because after investigating many other places, Mr. Leahy returned here early in December, and began preparations.  He was much impressed with the central location of the city, accessibility to so many other cities and towns nearby.  Since coming here he is quite enthusiastic over the climate and the neighborly manner of the people towards a stranger – already feels as if he had lived here years and willing to continue.

He has spent the past six years with Canadian-Dunlop Tire Co. of Toronto and Montreal and the Schenectady, (NY) Vulcanizing Works

“The Gate City” – Greensboro Special Souvenir Book Issued in 1910
In the 1910 issue of The Daily Record – “The Gate City” – Greensboro Special Souvenir Number book published by J. M. Reece & Company, there is a picture of the Dixie Rubber Company building at 214 West Market Street and an article about J. Leahy and the business:


 
214 West Market Street


“A new industry for Greensboro is the Dixie Rubber Company, which has recently located at 214 West Market street, one of the best plants of the kind in the South for repairing and vulcanizing automobile tires.  It is a line of industry of which scarcely anything is known by people outside the auto trade, and very little by those in it. 

As some of the machinery was being handled at the railway shops and at the company’s headquarters, people wondered what they were, even machinists who thought they “knew it all” were floored.  This is one of the best equipped plants outside some of the largest tire factories, and can take care of any kind of tire made.  Some of the special machines installed are sectional vulcanizers for blowouts in casings, flat surface vulcanizer for tube work, a monster “kettle,” weighing 1 ½ tons for retreading and recovering casings.  Those machines are supplied with steam by a 16-horsepower boiler.  A giant air compressor for heating purposes, and a grinder and buffer for trimming are driven by an electric motor.  They also have a most modern machine for putting new tires on baby carriages so that even the babies to whom the little go-cart or baby buggy is more important than the finest auto, may be attended to.  The proprietor, J. Leahy, got into the rubber tire business in the day of the solid bicycle tire and has been in the business ever since, taking up the auto tires (making and repairing) as soon as the industry started.  Getting tired of the cold Northern winters – the past six years being spent in New York State and Canada, he began an investigation of the various localities between Washington and New Orleans with the idea of getting the best location for all the year business, finally deciding that Greensboro ‘looked good to him.’ 

The good roads hereabouts and the general air of prosperity and neighborliness of the people whom he came in contact with on his visit of investigation, and the fact that Greensboro seemed the central point of a large number of thriving cities, towns and villages ‘cinched’ the decision to adopt the city as a residence.”

Joseph Leahy was very qualified to open his own rubber repair store, as he had worked for the inventor of the air-filled pneumatic tire, John Dunlop.  When he opened his business in Greensboro, he purchased advanced machinery needed to make the quality of his work unparalleled.  This equipment included a tube vulcanizer, a sectional vulcanizer, a recovering kettle to melt rubber, a giant compressor and compressor tank, and even a vulcanizing machine made especially for baby buggy tires.

September 10, 1911 – New Location At 212 North Elm Street And Name Change
Because of a lack of competition, the Dixie Rubber Company grew very fast.  An increase in inventory and product diversification had the owner searching for a suitable site for relocation.  He moved the shop to 212 North Elm Street in the late summer of 1911.  An advertisement that ran in the Greensboro Daily News on September 10, 1911, stated that J. Leahy had leased a store on North Elm Street where he would place up-to-date vulcanizing equipment and a line of auto supplies.  He would also carry parts for the yearling flying machine, the aeroplane (sic).

Because of the addition of car and aeroplane parts to the inventory,  and because he was advertising “Automobile Repairs,” and the availability of a “Catalog,” Joseph Leahy felt that the Dixie Rubber Company was no longer an appropriate name.  Therefore, he changed the name on September 18, 1911, to Dixie Sales Company when he opened the new 212 North Elm Street location. 

While the companies’ first 214 West Market Street location was in an excellent spot, the new 212 North Elm Street location was very noticeable directly across from City Hall.

In the October 24, 1911, edition of the Greensboro Daily News, shortly after opening the new location at North Elm Street, the following PR piece appeared:  J. Leahy, proprietor of the Dixie Sales Company has established a rubber tire hospital just opposite city hall.  A full line of automobile supplies are carried in stock and the best work in mending and overhauling ties is done by Mr. Leahy that it is possible for an expert to do.  He is an expert in every sense of the word.  He knows his business and Mr. Leahy is reliable and you can depend upon what he says.  North Carolina has no better workman in his line.

With the name change to Dixie Sales Company at the new location, an automotive service logo appeared for the first time that carried on into the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It read “IF IT ISN’T RIGHT, WE’LL MAKE IT RIGHT.”  Another catchy callout was also appearing for the first time in ads in the fall of 1911, “Rubber Tire Hospital.”

Although new items and services were added, vulcanizing remained Dixie Sales Company’s primary business, just as it had since 1910.  An advertisement in the Greensboro Daily News on January 23, 1913, echoed those sentiments by stating, “If It’s Made of Rubber – We’ll Fix It!” 

Other ads in 1912 stated that repairs were available for motorcycle, bicycle and baby cab tires, water bags, etc.  And that in their inventory was cements, patches, re-liners, polishes, soaps, carbide pumps, spark plugs, gauges, combination foot and lap robes, pumps, jacks and tire fabric.

In the December 8, 1912 edition of the Greensboro Daily News, the following article could be found:
Dixie Sales Company, J. Leahy, Proprietor, Automobile Supplies, etc.  With the great growth in the number of automobile owners came the repair and supply man, and during the last few years the progress made in this important branch of the business has been remarkable.  It is one requiring qualifications of a special kind to be successful and the fact that the Dixie Sales Company, of which Mr. J. Leahy is the proprietor, has become headquarters for the automobile owners of this city and section, is the best evidence that the work done by him is most satisfactory.

Mr. Leahy has, at 212 North Elm street (sic), opposite the City Hall, one of the most completely equipped tire repairing shops and supply houses in this part of the south.  He makes a specialty of tire repairing, has a first class steam vulcanizing plant and his customers are scattered throughout the Carolina’s and Virginia.  Tourists passing through this section, or intending to do so, should make a note of the location of the Dixie Sales company.  Mr. Leahy has had 20 years of experience, uses the best of materials, all work is done promptly and reasonable and “if it isn’t right, we’ll make it right,” is the motto of his establishment.  He not only repairs tires but anything that’s made of rubber, (sic) bicycle, motorcycle and carriage tires, footballs, water bottles, punching bags, everything.  His line of supplies is complete and select and includes spare tire outfits, pumps, jacks, tire fabric, inner tubes, bags, valves, portable vulcanizers, air gauges, patches, tire lugs, all invariably from the best manufacturers. 

Mr. Leahy began business here in Greensboro about three years ago and has been most successful.  Few men have had as long and as valuable experience with tires, for he was a manufacturer and repairer of rubber tires before the auto business began, has been at it for 20 years and there is nothing about tires with which he is not familiar.  For nine years he was with the “G. and J.” and Dunlop tire people and during that time visited all parts of the country.  Mr. Leahy is a native of Quebec, Canada, but since making Greensboro his home, has been actively identified with the business life of the city, has made a circle of friends, and is one of its most progressive business men.


A running statement signed by Joseph Leahy on June 17, 1912


January 1, 1913 – New Location at 111-113 East Washington Street
After 13 months at 212 North Elm Street, Leahy once again moved the business on January 1, 1913 to 111-113 East Washington Street, upstairs in the new McGlamery-Markham Ford auto dealership building which had its service department on the second floor.  Leahy put the vulcanizing department in a front room on the second floor near the other auto service bays.

A December, 1912 ad by McGlamery-Markham Auto Company stated that:  We are pleased to announce that we have moved into our new and modern fireproof garage, 111-113 East Washington Street  (Just back of the Greensboro National Bank.)  The style of our firm name has been changed from Ford Garage Company to McGlamery-Markam Auto Company…Our large repair shop is on the second floor.  It will be equipped with the very latest machinery and appliances for doing the very best work, and it will be all times in charge of the most skilled mechanics of long years of experience…The Dixie Sales Company, in charge of Mr. J. Lehy (sic), well known throughout this entire section of country as a master mechanic and an expert in his particular line, will have a modern vulcanizing plant in a front room on the second floor of our new building.


  

Joseph Leahy’s Dixie Sales Company was on the second floor of the McGlamery-Sutton Ford Auto Dealership in January, 1913

September 1963 Greensboro Daily News Article About the McGlamery-Sutton Building
During the demolition of this building in September 1963, an article that ran in the Greensboro Daily News titled OLD T-MODEL HOME FEELS HEAVY HAND OF DEMOLITION, contained the following comment regarding early uses of the building and how cars got to the second floor: 

The building was erected in the 1920’s (sic) as McGlamery’s Garage, a Ford agency, and later became, first, the McGlamery-Markham Auto Co., and then McGlamery-Sutton Auto Co., agency for the Model T Ford.  At one time the garage used the upstairs for repair and storage work, using a lift to carry cars to the upper floors.  Dixie Sales Co., when it first organized, used a part of the upstairs as its garage quarters.

Chapter 3..........1914 - 1916..........The History of Dixie Sales Company

In 1913, Two Ohio Families Become Determined to Purchase a Tire Vulcanizing (Repair) Business
In 1913, two families from Ohio were contemplating a journey and a move that would change their lives forever.  Leander Hoy (Jack) Starmer and his wife of two years, Mabel Snyder Starmer, and his father-in-law, Franklin Emmett (F.E.) Snyder, with his wife Mary Crane Snyder moved to Greensboro, North Carolina in early 1914.

Jack Starmer was born on October 20, 1888, in Mount Vernon, OH.  He moved to Burbank, OH and worked as a butcher in a meat market as a young man and later in a bottle factory, where, as he related to me with much humor, “he was fired for breaking too many bottles.”  He later worked for Goodyear Tire Company in Akron, where he held an apprenticeship, learning tire manufacturing and repair.

Franklin Emmett Snyder was born on September 2, 1857, in Wayne County, OH.  In December of 1882, he married Mary Crane Keck, in Burbank, OH, where they resided and ran a flour mill.  Jack Starmer met Mabel Snyder in Burbank, OH while working at the meat market.  The Snyder’s flour mill in Burbank burned to the ground on February 19, 1897, and the family moved about 5 miles away to Lodi, OH.

Around 1911 or 1912, a doctor told Frank Snyder that he had to get out of the cold weather in Ohio for his health.  The Snyder family including Frank and wife Mary, and the three surviving children (of five born) who all played a future role in Dixie Sales Company, Henry Emmett, Ida Mabel, and Ellis Bowers Snyder moved to Atlantic City in New Jersey.  Jack Starmer followed Mabel and her family to Atlantic City and on November 10, 1912, married her there.

One story (of two) goes that Jack and Frank were on a train from Ohio going to Florida and that their intention was to purchase a tire vulcanizing business there, a business Jack Starmer was very familiar with.  Someone on the train overheard them talking about the potential business acquisition and told them about Dixie Sales Company in Greensboro for sale.  They got off the train in Greensboro instead of traveling on to Florida, and Frank Snyder and his son-in-law Jack Starmer obviously liked what they saw in Greensboro and Dixie Sales.  Dixie Sales Company, still located at 111 East Washington Street, was under their ownership by March 1, 1914, and re-opened for business on Monday, March 2, 1914.

The second (other) story about coming to Greensboro says that after almost two years in Atlantic City where Frank had bought or rented two concession stands on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the family decided that the weather in New Jersey was no better than in Ohio.  And so we believe they went back to the Akron, Ohio area for a short period of time.  While there, they read an ad in a tire trade journal about a tire vulcanizing business for sale in Greensboro, NC.  They then came south on a train directly to Greensboro to look at Joseph Leahy’s tire repair and vulcanizing business, Dixie Sales Company.

Joseph Leahy’s last known address was the Carolina Hotel and CafĂ©.  He moved there after the sale with his family from his home on Schenck Street, where he had rented space for his family from a nurse, Mrs. J.L. Burlingame.

In the February 25, 1914 edition of the Greensboro Record newspaper, there was this notice:  MOVE TO WASHINGTON:  Mr. Joseph Leahy owner and proprietor of the Dixie Sales Company, operating an automobile tire repair shop in the building with McGlamery-Markham (sic) Auto Company, sold his establishment to Messrs. F.E. Snyder and L.H. Starmer of Akron, Ohio, and on the first of the month will move with his family to Washington, D.C., where he will engage in the automobile repair business.

Frank Snyder And Jack Starmer Purchase Dixie Sales Co.  –  Open For Business March 2, 1914
By February 25, 1914, the sale was consummated, and preparations made to open for business the following  Monday, March 2, 1914.  L.H. “Jack” Starmer was 29 years old.  His father-in-law, F.E. “Frank” Snyder was 57 years old.

Dixie Sales Company, under its new ownership, catered to people or companies who could afford to purchase motor vehicles.  For example, on March 2, 1914, their second customer Mr. A. W. McAllister, the founder of Pilot Life Insurance Company, entered the store and paid $3.75 for 4 inside tire sleeves.  During his lifetime, Mr. McAllister was a regular customer of Dixie Sales Company.

The total sales for the first day of business on March 2 totaled $6.65, Tuesday March 3 totaled $4.80 and business on March 4 totaled $2.50.  By the last day of the month, total March business reached $235.70.

Services provided included repairing tubes, installing a valve in a tube, install a new tube, repair a baby carriage tire, two baby carriage tubes sold, change a tire, repair a water bottle or an ice bag, patch a tread,  or patch the inside of a tire.

Dixie Sales was still on the second floor of the McGlamery-Sutton Ford Auto Dealership in March 1914.


Many names in the first Dixie Sales ledger book were ones we would recognize today in the Greensboro area.  They included A.W. McAlister mentioned earlier, McGlamery-Markam Auto Company, McAdoo, Alderman, Vick Chemical Company and L. Richardson, Michaux, Sternberger, Fortune, Benbow, Schenk, Pegram, Brooks,  Phipps, Craven, Stern, Justice, Morehead, Barringer, Linville, Causy, Albright, Morris Motor Company, Cassell Motor Company, Odell Hardware, Guilford Motor Car Company, Lexington Motor Company, High Point Motor Company, Asheboro Motor Company, Reitzel Auto Service, Mount Airy Motor Company, Virginia City Motor Company in Danville, VA, Greensboro Motor Company, and many more.


Dixie Sales in 2nd Floor Space of McGlamery-Sutton Auto Building


 Another View of Dixie Sales in 2nd Floor Space of the McGlamery-Sutton Auto Building




A Running Statement Signed by Frank E. Snyder April 1, 1915


 
First Days of Business for Dixie Sales Company under Snyder and Starmer Ownership


From the March 2, 1914 opening under the new Snyder-Starmer ownership until October 17, 1915, I did not find any newspaper advertisements for Dixie Sales Company in the Greensboro Daily News.

Chapter 4...........1916 - 1922..........The History of Dixie Sales Company

DIXIE SALES MOVES IN 1916 TO NEW LOCATION AT 115 WEST MARKET STREET
In early February 1916, Dixie Sales Company moved once again as it grew, to a location at 115 West Market Street.  A Greensboro Daily News article on February 23, 1916 announced the move:  The Dixie Sales Company has recently moved its Rubber Tire Hospital to 115 West Market Street and the boys are delighted with their new location.  This company, besides selling new tires, is equipped to make your old ones practically as good as new, provided you didn’t wait too long for the vulcanizing process.  A tire is like a shoe – if repaired in time a lot of wear is left, but if neglected too long, little can be accomplished.


115 West Market Street – Jack Starmer and Frank Snyder, February 1916


Jack and Mabel had their first son, Charles, who was born on August 3, 1916.  And Ellis B. Snyder, Frank and Mary’s youngest son, returned from a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy in the First World War.

In  Sketches of Greensboro, North Carolina – Pen and Picture Sketches (photographs) – published by Central Publishing Company Inc. in 1917, there are pictures of F.E. Snyder and L.H. Starmer on page 40 with a small paragraph about the two owners and their Dixie Sales Company:




This place of business is located 115 West Market Street and has phone No. 1123.  It is a very busy establishment indeed, specializing as it does in vulcanizing and all sorts of tire troubles.  It is known as the “Rubber Tire Hospital” and nearly all automobile owners have become familiar with the place and regard it as headquarters when they desired any work done on their automobile tires.  The Dixie Sales Co. handle the Goodrich and Goodyear tires which are perhaps the best on the market, certainly there are none better.  This is a very complete plant.  The owners of the business are Messrs. F.E. Snyder and L.H. Starmer who came to Greensboro about three years ago and have since made their influence greatly felt in the trade and in business circles generally.  They are great boosters for Greensboro, always have a good word for the city, think the climate here is ideal, and affiliate as members of the Chamber of Commerce, Merchants’ Association, etc.  They are both men of experience in their line of business, Mr. Snyder having been in business in Atlantic City, N.J. for two years before coming to Greensboro, and Mr. Starmer was with the Good-Year (sic) Tire & Rubber Company and Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, for two years.  Both of these gentlemen are natives of Ohio.  Fraternally Mr. Snyder is an Odd Fellow and Mr. Starmer a Woodman.

On March 17, 1918, the following article ran in the Greensboro Daily NewsDIXIE SALES COMPANY WELL EQUIPPED SHOP, F.E. SNYDER AND L.H. STARMER HAVE ONE OF BEST SHOPS IN THE SOUTH…The Dixie Sales Company maintains in Greensboro one of the best equipped shops for tire repairing in all the south, in addition to handling a complete line of tires, tubes and tire accessories.  Messrs. Snyder and Starmer by persistent and conscientious effort have built up here a splendid business and they have gained for themselves a reputation for fair dealing that is worth much more than all the valuable tires, equipment etc., which they have accumulated in their four years stay in Greensboro.  Coming here from Akron, Ohio, the world’s tire center, they put their experience of years into a small beginning, offering expert service in all branches of rubber work.  From a small beginning they gradually grew, until two years ago they moved into larger quarters on West Market Street.  Here they have equipped a modern shop for the treatment of rubber, specializing on vulcanizing and retreading of tires.  So great has their fame become that now they are receiving work from all sections of the state, and they have the knack of doing a job in such a manner as to always get future business.

Mr. Snyder, the senior member of the firm, gives his attention entirely to the sales and management, while Mr. Starmer, who by the way is a son-in-law of the senior partner, is in charge of the vulcanizing and retreading departments.  Both are always on the job and whatever they undertake is done efficiently and with the utmost dispatch.  Mr. Snyder has frequently remarked that he wanted to do business in such a way as to create in the public the firm impression that whatever the job, the Dixie Sales Company could be depended upon.  And he makes it a rule to see to it that tires are not taken for repair unless they are actually worth spending money on. 

Recently Messrs. Snyder and Starmer have purchased an attractive home on Pomona drive (Spring Garden Street in Pomona district of Greensboro), an act that was particularly pleasing to their many friends because it indicated their belief in Greensboro and intention to make it their home for all time.

In the February 17, 1919, Greensboro Daily News, the following news bulletin was published:  Mr. L.H. Starmer, manager of the Dixie Sales Company, returned this morning from a business trip of several days to the northern markets to purchase tires for his firm.  While away he visited New York, Boston, and Akron, Ohio.



This Picture Of The Snyder And Starmer Extended Family was taken on Christmas Eve, 1919 at 2516 Spring Garden Street (at Longview Street.)  The house is still standing as of 2014.  Emmett, Ellis and Mabel are siblings.  Blanche is Emmett’s wife.  Mary Diggs Snyder is the wife of Ellis.  Mabel Snyder Starmer is the wife of Jack Starmer and is pregnant in this picture with James Ernest Starmer who was born on April 19, 1920.  Eleanor is the daughter of Emmett and Blanche and was still living in the early 2000’s in Nevada.  Charles is the first child of Jack and Mabel Starmer.  This house at 2516 Spring Garden was still in the Snyder family in 2014.

A New Location As Dixie Sales Grows, Changes Its Name for a Short Period And Adds New Services
During the week of February 2, 1920, the Snyder’s and Starmer’s moved Dixie Sales again, from 115 West Market Street to 300 North Elm Street, at the northeast corner of Elm and Church Street, only a block away from Joseph Leahy’s second location, and across the street from the O’Henry Hotel.  In this white brick garage and warehouse, Dixie took on the full lines of Goodyear and Firestone tires, and Texaco gasoline and motor oil.  Offering a multitude of free services, one could drive through and receive service advice and consultation, plus tire air, all at no cost.  Dixie Sales would operate here for about two years.  Ellis Snyder and his older brother Henry Emmett Snyder were both working in the family business at this time.

In January, 1920, a series of ads in the Greensboro Daily News and the Greensboro Record announced the upcoming move to 300 North Elm Street and also a name change for the business: 

OUR FRIENDS ARE CROWDING US OUT OF OUR PRESENT QUARTERS… We will be forced to our larger home opposite the O’Henry Hotel upon its completion about February 1 (1920) and will have room there for the great expansion of our business we confidently expect during the New Year.

Here, in the building erected for Penney and Long, we will have superb facilities for service, and we are pleased to announce that in addition to our tire service we will be prepared to give oil, gas and accessory service.  Under our new organization the style (new name) of our firm will be:  Dixie Sales and Service Co. Inc.  Each department will have its own head, with a competent man responsible for oil and gas service, an experienced man in charge of tire repair work, of retreading and vulcanizing; in fact we have prepared to render the motorist a service unexcelled.  We are not attempting to create the idea that by service we mean giving something for nothing.  Our conception of service is doing a good job at a fair profit, selling reliable goods at a fair price, giving good advice to customers.  We believe in the square deal policy, we believe it makes us customers and makes us friends to treat our patrons squarely, to advise them frankly, and we believe you are willing to pay a fair profit to us for this kind of service.



Dixie Sales and Service Co. Inc., 300 North Elm Street at the corner of Church and Elm Streets


In the January 18, 1920, edition of the Greensboro Daily News the Snyder/Starmer vision for the new business plan and location was elaborated on:  WE ARE COMPLETING OUR PLANS FOR A GREATER SERVICE TO MOTORISTSWithin a short time now we expect to move into our splendidly arranged new home opposite the O’Henry Hotel, where we will offer a complete service to motorists.  Our gas and oil service will offer the public an especially convenience, arrangements being such that you can drive in one entrance and out the other.  Elm and Church streets are wide, and our station has been built with an idea of plenty of room.  You won’t have to crowd in to get your gas and oil.

We will departmentize (sic) our business when we go into our new home, and for the information of the public we are giving some of the details of the management and purposes of these departments.

Mr. M.D. Barnes, whom you probably know already, will be in charge of the oil and gasoline service.  He is no doubt the best fitted man for this particular line of service in the city, having spent over six years at the business. 

Mr. L.W. Parrish (Lonnie) will have charge of the vulcanizing and tire repair service.  Mr. Parrish has been with us for three years and has learned to give tire service and do vulcanizing according to our standard, so we know he is well equipped for his place.

Mr. Snyder and Mr. Starmer will have charge of the tire and accessory sales, also a general charge of the whole organization, and will be on the job every minute to see that the whole organization is kept up to the highest efficiency.

We have the best location in the city for a service station like ours and we have the best organization that can be found anywhere.  Our men are all picked men, each a specialist in his particular line.

We will sell only the best of everything in our line and therefore can see no real reason why you would want to be elsewhere.  We are going to look for you.

Dixie Sales Company       Rubber Tire Hospital

A SECOND DIXIE SALES LOCATION OPENS CALLED COLUMBIA BATTERY STATION
On March 4, 1920, there was an announcement in the Greensboro Daily News that Dixie Sales and Service would open a second business location for the sale and servicing of batteries.  In the March 4, 1920 edition of the Greensboro Daily News, the ad for the Columbia Battery Station read as follows:  ANNOUNCING – THE OPENING MONDAY (MARCH 8, 1920) UNDER THE MANAGEMENT OF THE DIXIE SALES AND SERVICE COMPANY OF A THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED AND FULLY STOCKED COLUMBIA BATTERY STATION.

The ad continued: This station will be maintained at the former location of the Dixie Sales and Service Company, 115 West Market Street, and will be under the direct management of Mr. Ellis B. Snyder.  We will carry in stock a full line of Columbia Batteries and cater to all classes of Auto Ignition and Electrical Work.  Battery service will be the feature of our business, and we will be equipped to render every class of battery work.  Columbia Battery Station.  Management of Dixie Sales and Service Company, 115 West Market Street, Greensboro, N.C.



Columbia Battery Station at 115 West Market Street


On March 7, 1920, there was a small business announcement in the Greensboro Daily News about the opening of the Columbia Battery Station:  COLUMBIA BATTERY STATION OPENS HERE.  Dixie Sales and Service Company to Operate Exclusive Battery Service Station on West Market.  A fully equipped station for the sale of Columbia batteries and for general battery, Motor ignition and electrical service will be formally opened tomorrow morning by the Dixie Sales and Service Company.

The Columbia Station will be in the former location of the Dixie Sales Company, 115 West Market Street, and will be under the direct management of Ellis B. Snyder.  Chief of the service department will be Stacy Calhoun, one of the best battery men in this section.

Mr. Snyder, who has been in the naval service for the past several years, is an experienced battery man and is especially trained for auto ignition and electrical work.  He is a son of F.E. Snyder, head of the Dixie Sales and Service Company, and a young man of considerable energy and pleasant personality.

On the same Sunday, March 7 edition of the Greensboro Daily News, the following ad ran: COLUMBIA BATTERY STATION OPENS TOMORROW – 115 WEST MARKET STREET – A THOROUGH BATTERY SERVICE AND SALES ROOM – UNDER MANAGEMENT DIXIE SALES AND SERVICE – Monday morning in the building on West Market Street which we formerly occupied, we will open an up-to-date and completely equipped Columbia Battery Sales and Service Station.  This battery station will be under the general management of Mr. Ellis B. Snyder, who is experienced in battery work and in all classes of auto ignition and electrical work.  Mr. Snyder will be assisted by a corps of trained battery men, chief of the battery service department being Mr. Stacy Calhoun, who is well known and regarded as one of the best battery service men in the city.

We Will Do All Classes of Battery Work and Will Sell You the Columbia Under a Straight One Year Guarantee  –

When we sell you a Columbia Battery you are given a straight guarantee for one year.  If the life of the battery is affected through any factory defect before the year expires same will be replaced by an absolutely new battery, with no allowance made for the period in service.

COLUMBIA BATTERY STATION – Of Dixie Sales and Service Company – 115 West Market Street – Ellis B. Snyder, Manager.


Columbia Battery Station, 115 West Market Street – Ellis Snyder at Far Right


Ernest Starmer Born
James Ernest Starmer was born April 19, 1920 to Jack and Mabel Starmer in Greensboro. 

Two Page Article On Dixie Sales And Service In July, 1920 Issue Of Motor World Magazine
In the August 1, 1920 issue of the Greensboro Daily News, an article was written about the Motor World magazine story on Dixie Sales Company.  SELLING SATISFACTION IS NEW MERCHANDISING – How the Square Deal For Every Patron Has Built Up Dixie Sales and Service Co. – A Motor World Story

The July (1920) number of the Motor World magazine devoted to motors and all the things that go with them, carries a full two-page story of the Dixie Sales and Service Company of Greensboro, with large illustrations of the elegant quarters of the company, opposite the O. Henry hotel, together with photos of F.E. Snyder and L.H. Starmer, proprietors.  The story is built on the proposition, the soundness of which the Dixie people have proved, that satisfaction, after all, is the commodity a merchant must sell if his business is to be successful.

How the Dixie company sends its air tank truck three times a week down into the wholesale districts and inflates tires it has sold to the wholesalers, and how it sends the truck twice a week down into the business district, watching for its tires on every car that needs attention is related in the story.  The firm’s belief in the value of publicity is set forth and examples of its wide-awake advertising cited.  A sample of one of its advertisements is reproduced, as follows: 

“We are responsible.  Business is a personal matter.  You can’t get away from it.  Somebody has to be responsible for quality.  The deciding factor in every deal is, (sic) Who’s responsible?  We are responsible for everything we sell you, whether it be tires, tubes, blow-out patches or what not.  And the fact that you know we’re responsible, and everybody else knows it, too, is the only thing that keeps our business good.  But this responsibility of ours would be an awful load – a liability rather than an asset – if we didn’t buy our tires from people who are just as responsible to us we are to you, and who always send us goods that we can stand back of.”

The Dixie people started in Greensboro in 1914.  Messrs. Starmer and Snyder came here from Akron, Ohio and established a vulcanizing business.  Business wasn’t very good then and they had to get down to fundamentals.  They did the best work possible and charged reasonable prices.  They took a personal interest in the tires of their customers.  They have worked out these propositions:

 “Try to give better service than the other fellows give.”
“Meet our customers with a smile and make them feel that they are among friends when they drop in to talk to us about tires.”
“Gain the confidence of our customers by giving them the very best advice that we can, the kind of advice that we would appreciate if we were in their shoes.”
“Never make a promise that we cannot fulfill, and if we do promise anything, make good, even if it costs us money to do so.”

The Motor World story puts the company first among southern enterprises of its character, and cites the fact that in addition to its big local business, it is doing vulcanizing for many other points, and commanding patronage over a wide southern territory – all because of the square deal and the judicious publicity that told the world about the Dixie style of doing business.

Consolidation And Move To 109 South Davie  Street – Name Reverts To Dixie Sales Company
In the first week of March, 1921, Dixie Sales moved to 109 South Davie Street.  A February 28, 1921 Greensboro Daily News ad announced the following:  REMOVAL NOTICE – We are going to combine our Vulcanizing Department, now located in a part of the Penney & Long Service Station, and our Battery Station on West Market Street, and in order to do this we were forced to seek larger quarters.  We will move into our new location at 109 South Davie Street the latter part of this week, where we will be in position to service our patrons much more efficiently.  We have purchased mold for vulcanizing giant pneumatic tires, and other equipment for the enlargement of our Vulcanizing Department.

Effective with our removal, the name of the firm will revert to Dixie Sales Company, which was formerly the name of this concern.

On March 6, 1921, a Greensboro Daily News article announced the move of Dixie Sales Company to 109 South Davie Street:  DIXIE SALES COMPANY IS NOW IN ITS NEW HOME – Successful Local Concern Established t in Larger Quarters on Davie Street.

The Dixie Sales company, which has operated its tire and sales business in the Penney and Long building, and its Columbia Battery station on West Market Street (115), will open tomorrow morning in the commodious new home at 109 South Davie.  The new home has been made distinctive by its bright yellow front.

This company, long one of the most successful automobile accessory houses of this section, has increased its equipment, especially for vulcanizing and retreading tires.  The large moulds (sic) required for retreading the big pneumatic truck tires have been installed, and the company is now one of the few in the state quipped for this class of work.  The retreading department is under the management of Lonnie Parrish, who has received special instructions at the Goodyear factory.

It was at this new location that a horrific accident occurred on January 4, 1922.  Newspaper accounts and pictures, along with first-hand accounts from Jack Starmer, supply what happened on that Wednesday at Dixie Sales.


109 South Davie Street
From the Left:  Unknown, Jack Starmer, his wife Mabel Snyder Starmer, Henry Emmett Snyder,
unknown, unknown, Ellis B. Snyder.         Mabel, Emmett and Ellis were siblings.


Disaster Strikes On January 4, 1922
Shortly after Dixie Sales moved to 109 South Davie Street, J. Ed. Albright, a master plumber and steamfitter, installed a new compressed air tank in May of 1921.  The tank was kept pressurized and used to fill tires with air.

After the 1921 Christmas holidays, Jack Starmer noticed a small leak in the new tank.  He called Mr. Albright’s establishment and requested that it be repaired as soon as possible.  Ed Albright came in person along with a young man, A. S. Lowe, who had recently finished his apprenticeship.  They arrived at 9 AM on Wednesday, January 4, 1922.  Without warning, while the two were at work, the tank violently exploded, tearing the head of the tank off the tank body.  It struck Mr. Albright square in the face killing him instantly.  The tank hurtled towards the front of the building, crashing through the office wall and barely stopping when it reached the front wall.

The concussion which shattered windows in the surrounding buildings, also demolished the interior of the shop.  Jack Starmer, who was at the rear of the shop, saw the two at work just seconds before the blast.  Jack was uninjured.

Frank Snyder, who was working in the office, stood up as soon as he heard the blast and began moving towards the door.  This reflex nearly cost him his life, as the tank missed his head by inches as it flew through his office wall. The chair he had been sitting in was totally destroyed.  Mr. Albright’s body lay crushed beneath bricks and debris.  Amelius Lowe was thrown from the tank and was seriously injured.  Dorothy Haden, a nurse who lived about a block away heard the explosion and came to offer her assistance to Mr. Lowe.

There was a large hole in the roof and debris consisting of inventory and office materials were scattered through the building.  An employee of Ed Albright believed that Mr. Albright turned the pressure too high while searching for the leak, putting too much pressure and force against a weak part of the tank, which then burst causing rapid depressurization. 

Manufacturer’s Criminal Negligence Said To Have Killed Ed Albright
In a January 6, 1922 Greensboro Daily News article, the brother of Ed Albright, charged the manufacturer of the compressed air tank that exploded with criminal negligence.  In summary, the article went on to say:  Mr. Albright (brother of the deceased) for many years an instructor in the mechanical department of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, arrived yesterday and shortly afterwards went to the place where the accident happened and made a thorough examination…  Mr. Albright claims that the head of the tank was not even brazed (a form of soldering) when it (the tank head) was represented as having been welded.  The head was merely stuck in place according to Mr. Albright.  He further declared that had his dead brother known that the tank was not welded, he would not have been up there working on it.  Mr. Albright declared that he would do all in his power to punish those guilty of such criminal negligence.  He explained the difference between brazing and welding saying that five tanks can be brazed while  one is welded therefore the manufacturer by merely sticking the head on a tank is making more money.  He said that the tank was invoiced to his brother as welded and as a seamless tank, and thinking that this was as represented, the victim (Ed Albright) of the accident started to his work on Wednesday morning with never a thought of such a horrible climax.

A headline advertisement in the Greensboro Daily News announced “DIXIE SALES CLOSED FOR INVENTORY AND REPAIR – OPEN MONDAY AS USUAL.”  And they did reopen four days later.




Front Page Newspaper Photo of Crowd Gathering at Explosion Site


Frank Snyder Jumped up from his desk (far left of picture) at the sound of the explosion and in doing so,
was nearly struck in the head and killed by the pressurized tank flying through the air.



Damage to the shop where the pressurized tank was located.



In 1921, a year before the explosion, Dixie Sales Company dissolved its status as a corporation.  The company became a co-partnership between Jack Starmer, Frank and Mary Snyder, and their son Ellis Snyder.  In 1952, the company did re-incorporate itself according to North Carolina laws.


Early 1920's Line Card