On September 1, 1969, Mamie and Courtney Terwilliger began a business venture and opened a service station called Terwilligers that would span generations. This small, family-owned operation soon became a trusted local business among regulars needing quick automotive repairs. The legacy of Terwilligers continued through their children, John, Courtney, and Henry, who grew up learning the tricks of the trade and familiarizing themselves with every face and need of every local individual who walked into their parents’ shop.
“We started up on the corner across from the Dairy Queen in an old service station facility.” explained Henry, “My parents wanted to open a tire store but the only place my father could find for rent at the time sold gasoline. So, they began selling gasoline and gradually got into the tire business.” In 1992, Henry purchased the familiar 419 South Main Street location next to Burger King and established Terwilligers Tire Pros, offering the services his parents initially strived for; tires, auto and transmission repair. Then in 2008, he expanded Terwilligers once again with a quick lube station located directly behind their South Main Street location. Three years later in 2011, Henry and his wife Paulette, purchased the property located at 538 East Main Street and built Terwilliger's Tire, Inc., where they began providing services to commercial trucks.
When asked about Terwilligers success and the challenges of helping build the family business, Henry said, “You look forward to something until you get it and then you wrestle with it. It’s something you always work at, but I’m thankful for the people that supported me and gave me good advice along the way because I listened and I tell ya, I had a lot of folks help me.”
He also shared a bit of advice for any hopeful entrepreneurs wanting to start their own business in our community.
“Don’t expect it to be quick. Success takes time and a lot of hard work and tears and sweat but it can be done, so don’t give up!” he encouraged.
After providing the community with more than 25 years of dedicated service, Henry has decided to hang up his hat at Terwilligers and pass the torch down to his children, Agatha, Paul, and Cook, who with the guidance of their mother, Paulette, currently oversee the day-to-day operations at 538 East Main Street. Although bittersweet, Mamie and Courtney Terwilliger’s grandchildren are continuing their legacy at Terwilliger's Tire, Inc. and providing the same services they always have with the help of the same dedicated employees that served their South Main Street location.
“What success we’ve had is attributed to the staff we’ve had throughout the years and not me, because we’ve had good Christian folks work for us and they’re the kind of people I want to deal with for the rest of my life.” Explained Henry
With Henry’s retirement, came the end of an era for Terwilligers but the beginning of a new Swainsboro business; Mavis Tires & Brakes, who recently purchased the South Main Street location and are in the process of remodeling it to supply their own automotive services for the people of Emanuel County.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the people of our community and have learned a lot from them,” explained Henry, “I’ve had many mentors and the people of Emanuel County have been extremely gracious to my family for a long time and I’m very appreciative and very humbled by it and I hope that it’ll continue for years to come.”
Henry wanted to extend his gratitude further to his family, his wife Paulette and their three children, who have continuously supported him and their family business. During his retirement, Henry looks forward to traveling and spending some much-needed time with his family. He and Paulette will also be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on September 16.
Throughout his time at Terwilligers, Henry received the Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year Award as well as the Business of the Year Award. In addition, Terwilligers has also been named “Best All-Around Business,” “Best Oil Change,” and “Best Automotive Service,” for the Blade’s past Readers Choice nominations.
When asked if he had the chance to do it all over again, Henry confessed that although he’s looking forward to retirement, words cannot express his gratitude for the years he’s been given to not only help the people of Emanuel County but befriend them through his family business. He described it as a gift from God, like no other. He shared that if given the opportunity, he would take all those chances once more, because it’s the people that he’s going to miss more than anything.
“I’m going to miss seeing the people every day and getting to put a smile on their face just like they always did for me. I’m just an old country boy and that’s the way I’ll go out, as an old country boy… but I’m thankful that this community accepted me in the big city of Swainsboro to make a living.”
Terwilligers will continue providing the same customer-friendly service on all automotive operations at their 538 East Main Street location. As for their downtown business, the Blade is excited to welcome Mavis Tires & Brakes to the community!