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Dedicated workers, honest service key to Todd's Tire & Auto's success
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Photo: Paul Colletti
New tires wait to be mounted on a variety of vehicles at Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. in Prophetstown.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
It takes Chad DeWitte only a few minutes to mount and balance new tires for customers at Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. in Prophetstown. Mr. DeWitte has been with the business for five years and changes tires on large farm equipment as well as on passenger cars.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Changing engine oil is one of the many services that Chad DeWitte and his co-workers perform at Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. in Prophetstown. The business maintains vehicles for farmers and families alike.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Jamie Etheridge lines up the sensors while performing a wheel alignment for a customer at Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. in Prophetstown. Mr. Etheridge has been working for the business for 10 years helping to keep both farm and road vehicles in working order.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. at 5571 Lyndon Road in Prophetstown services farm vehicles as well as family cars.
PROPHETSTOWN -- Chad DeWitte passes Todd Wetzell and giggles like a schoolboy who has left a dead gold fish in his pal's desk. He did not leave a dead gold fish in his boss's desk, but if you know anything about the atmosphere at Todd's Tire & Auto Inc. of Prophetstown, the dead-fish-in-the-desk chance is always there.

"You standing around again?" said Todd Wetzell, the "Todd" behind the automotive and farm service shop's name (there is also a satellitte shop in Manlius, Ill.), to Mr. DeWitte. "Failing again to look busy."

Mr. DeWitte countered: "I was thinking about what the boss would do if he were me, so I decided to do nothing," he jabbed. "Maybe I'll take a nap."

The light-hearted banter is the way things are in the repair shop that rests on the east edge of the quaint and colorful community. The staff at Todd's does what it can — in a good way — to break up the 10- to 12-hour shifts they log each day.

"I have to force these guys to stay away when they are sick, that's how dedicated they are," said Mr. Wetzell, who has owned the business for a decade. "Everyone gives all they have. It's not easy; we are busy and there is no standing around. But I'm so lucky to have everyone who works here. They are amazing."

Mr. DeWitte, a Prophetstown native, began wrenching as a teen. After high school, he took a maintenance position with a firm in Morrison, but six years ago he began working part time for Mr. Wetzell. Truth is, nothing around Todd's is part time. It's full-go at every turn.

For Mr. DeWitte, life goes in circles — as in tire circles. He is Todd's lead tire man, handling all sizes, especially farm implement tires.

"We have to make sure the farmers are taken care of," Mr. DeWitte said. "This is a community that depends on farmers, and farmers depend on their equipment. We'll go to them if we have to, but a lot of my day is spent on making sure they are up and running."

Though farmers are a huge part of Todd's clientele, Mr. DeWitte says Todd's handles all automotive needs.

"The best thing about Todd is he will go to whatever length to make sure you get taken care of," Mr. DeWitte said. "He is honest to a fault. He will not tell you one thing needs to be done to your vehicle and do something extra. It's not in his make-up. He knows how important your vehicle is and knows how important farm equipment is to the farmers. One of the reasons I love working here is people leave knowing they have been dealt with fair and honest. It's not just Todd, it's everyone."

There is no "typical" work day for Mr. DeWitte, or, for that matter, for Mr. Wetzell or the other employees — Jamie Etheridge, Tim Brabender, Jeremy DeMay, Melissa Henrekin and Denise Snodgrass. The day begins about 7:30 a.m. and ends when that day's customers are taken care of.

"You just go and do," Mr. DeWitte said. "There is always something — that's the best thing about the business and the best thing about here in particular. I think we all are grateful to be working and to be working at a place where we are busy. It shows you the community trusts us, relies on us and we need them. No one wants a job where you just stand around."

Despite constant traffic through the shop, Mr. Wetzell — no matter how hectic the day — demands his staff take a lunch break and gather in his area at 3 p.m. to "solve the world's problems."

"Working through a lunch is not right," Mr. Wetzell said before making sure it was known that Randy Etheridge is the man responsible for his start in the automotive world. "And at 3 each day, we stop — even if it's for only 10 minutes — and see what's ahead. You'd be surprised at what that break does for us."

Mr. Wetzell laughed when asked where he lived.

"I had people tell me I was nuts to build a house 900 feet from the shop," he said. "I'm already tied to the business — it's the way things are in a small community. I have a wonderful wife and two daughters who allow us to do what we do. And if a problem pops up and I need to get to work, I can get here in a hurry. Same goes if there is something at home I need to address."

For Mr. DeWitte, there is no timetable, no long-range thoughts on his future. He has found a job to his liking, surrounded by great folks, in a community he calls his own.

"I'm like everyone else here," he said. "We work where we work and live where we live for a reason. We like both. I changed from one thing because I liked what I am doing here. It's what you make of it, and we try to make it the best we can."

Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.

(More History)