Just shy of 62 years in business, Sam's Tire Service, 703 N. Rolla St., will close Friday.

Just shy of 62 years in business, Sam's Tire Service, 703 N. Rolla St., will close Friday.

"It was first purchased by Sam Stiritz Sr. in January 1951 from Clyde St. John of Salem," said Norman Snodgrass, who has worked at the tire and auto service shop since the summer between his junior and senior years at Rolla High School, 60 years ago.

So it would be accurate to say the tire business is older than 62 years, if the previous owner's time is counted.

"It was an existing tire shop," Snodgrass said. "They did repairs and recaps."

That's the kind of work that continued under the direction of Sam Stiritz Sr.

"We retreaded tires here until 1970," Snodgrass said.

But products and services - and square footage - were added throughout the years and the decades as the business grew.

"It started on the corner at 709 Rolla," Snodgrass said. "Then we added 707, 705, 703 and 701."

Snodgrass, who says he and Donna Lisenbe, a 15-year employee, are co-managers for current owner Community Wholesale Tire, Hazelwood, said he started working in May 1953 as he was finishing his junior year at RHS.

"I worked the summer and then half a day my senior year," he said. "They had a work-study program for credit."

Snodgrass never left the business, continuing to work for Sam Sr., who passed away in 1998 after retiring to Florida in 1970. He also worked with Sam Jr., who passed away in 1995.

"Sam Jr. and I ran it together," Snodgrass said.

Much has changed in the tire business.

"It's gone from rayon to nylon to polyester to steel-belted," Snodgrass said.

He recalled, too, there was a major fire at Sam's Tire Service in 1992, the result of a leaking fluorescent ballast onto rubber tire tubes, igniting them.

"It was real hot," Snodgrass said, describing both the fire and the day in July 1992.

Stiritz family members own the building, and the lease runs out at the end of April. Community Wholesale Tire has been shutting down its retail division, focusing solely on wholesaling, so it was not interested in renewing the lease.

"They don't want to have any part of the retail business, and they've closed all their other stores except for a couple," Snodgrass said. "I'd probably have stayed another year or two if they hadn't. I think Donna would have stayed, too."

The closure will end the tire service employment for employees Bob Dill, 16 years; Johnny Pankey, 10 years; Jerry Pankey and James Smith, each six years.

Snodgrass said he will remain working in the building through the end of the lease, disposing of equipment and collecting accounts receivable.

He's quick to point out that he considers himself as "stepping down, not retiring," for he has lots to do to stay busy.

"My son and I have a farm," Snodgrass said. "He's a retired teacher, biology from Vienna, and I'm going to help him on the farm."

Snodgrass has bought and sold several farms over the years, and he enjoys working in agriculture.

He has also enjoyed his decades in the tire shop.

"I enjoy the people, meeting them and hearing what they have to say," said Snodgrass, who was born in 1936. "You'll find that when you get old enough to retire, but you're not forced to retire, then you enjoy your work more. It's the difference between having to do something and not having to do something."

He's going to miss his longtime customers - and their children and grandchildren who are also customers.

"It's been a lifetime of business relationships," Snodgrass said.