Marvin Norman sums up his business philosophy in one sentence.
“We’re a family-owned business and we take care of other families’ vehicles,” he said.
He said he uses the same business principles that guided his uncle, Bud Norman, who founded Thomson Tire and Retreading Co. in 1958. Work is performed the way he would want his own car worked on, and he takes care of his customers.
He believes that is why the majority of his business is return business, and in some cases for generations.
“(My wife) always told me, ‘You just spoil them people,’” he said. “We don’t worry about getting you today and then we don’t worry about you no more. We don’t play that.”
Norman takes pride in the service he offers, and promises he won’t recommend work unless it truly needs to be done. He also doesn’t mind showing a customer why he recommends a particular job and will sometimes allow the customer to watch him work.
“Our insurance doesn’t like for us to do it, but I don’t have a problem with a customer sitting there watching me while I fix his vehicle,” he said. “I ain’t going to do nothing that he can’t look at.”
Bud started the business after returning from a tour of duty overseas, where he did pipeline work.
Norman joined Bud in 1968, working part time sweeping floors and capping and changing tires until he finished high school. After graduating in 1972, he went to work full time and has been there ever since.
Retreading tires has become a thing of the past for most cars and light-duty trucks, but Norman still sells and repairs tires, aligns and rebuilds front ends, and replaces brakes and shocks. He can align anything from a Volkswagen to an ambulance, he said.
He said his customers come from all over, including Jefferson, Glascock, Warren, Columbia, Lincoln and Richmond counties. And, of course, McDuffie County.
“Thomson and McDuffie County has been real good to us,” he said.
If the reasons his customers call on him is any indication, he and his workers are real good to McDuffie County, too.
Norman said customers have called his long-time associate PeeWee Morgan to give them a ride to the hairdresser, and he will oblige. He tells of customers who call him because their cars won’t start. Though that’s not the type of work he does, he sends someone who can help them, even if that someone is from another automotive business in town.
He also finds a way to assist customers who call him from out of town with blown tires.
While other businesses may shrug off those types of customers, Norman won’t.
“We just can’t do that. It just don’t work that way for us, because we’ve done it all these years,” he said.
He credits the business’s 54 successful years to his uncle’s business ethic and to the quality of his employees, at least two of whom have been with him more than 25 years.
He stresses to his employees that the business is only as good as they are.
“I always tell my help, when somebody’s fussing about Thomson Tire and Retreading Co., they ain’t fussing about this building. They’re fussing about you, so you need to have pride in what you do,” he said.
He also credits his wife, Iris, who helps manage the shop and their 900-acre farm in Warrenton.
“She helps me all the time. We work together. We’ve always worked together,” he said.