Cars are sometimes at the heart of Rutherford County. Luckily Roy Mullins and Paul Deck have hearts for selling and servicing cars.
"When you watch a young couple buying a new car or even a newer car than the one they're driving, you see all kinds of emotions. But when all the details are worked out and they realize they've done it, it's pretty obviously one of the best days of their lives. They will even hug and kiss," Mullins said when asked what he likes about selling and servicing cars at Friendship Chrysler Dodge Jeep Nissan and dreams of continuing the traditions at the company's newly purchased McCurry-Deck dealership.
McCurry-Deck is now Friendship Chevrolet Buick GMC.
Paul Deck talked about his 42 years serving local car buyers and owners.
"The best part was 27 of those years working with my Dad. We didn't always see things the same way or do things the same way, but I learned a lot from him and appreciated all he sacrificed to get this business going," Paul Deck said of his dad, Kenneth, who started in the used car business with Leonard McCurry.
Their work together began in the early 1960's, Deck said, "Back when Forest City was known as LIttle Detroit because there were so many used car dealers. "Dad talked about running hookups from Washington and Detroit and driving long hours fighting to stay awake."
Deck compared his 42 years to Mullins 34 and said, "He's a youngster."
Both men clearly like each other, and Mullins said of Deck, "I really admire what he's done in the business."
Mullins's partner is Mitch Walters who owns a number of dealerships in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.
He said of working with Walters the highest quality is, "Honesty. You don't have to worry about getting a good night's sleep because he's not gonna rip anybody off or do anything to hurt anybody."
Their 34-year working relationship has resulted in Mullins being able to buy into the Forest City dealerships. Mullins lost his father as a sixth-grader and as he put it, "Grew up without a male role model."
When Walters heard him mention that, he said, "Let me be your role model."
After finishing college, Mullins said some people might have thought it strange for him to go into the car business, but added, "not if you're good at it."
Covid hit both dealerships, but the Oak Street location had only one bad month. Mullins said, "We normally sell more than a hundred cars a month. In March of 2020 we only sold 57. But we came back the next month and 2020 was our best year of the last seven."
Mullins moved to Forest City seven years ago when Friendship bought the dealership. His wife, Chrissy, is a teacher's aide at Rutherfordton Elementary and loves it. If she has a hard day, her husband tells her she can always quit, to which she replies, "I could never leave my kids."
Devotion like that makes for great teachers.
Deck said his family business is the first GM dealership bought by the Friendship company.
"I think they hope I can help them deal with General Motors," Deck said and added that the car business is always changing. "Right now it's tough to get inventory and the shortage of semiconductor chips has put the whole industry in a pinch."
He also said among the high points of his work has been the many times, "It has felt like I helped somebody."
A car not running makes all of us grateful for a good service department.
A trip to the website friendshipcars.com reveals that the company operates 24 franchises in 17 cities and it was awarded "Number one dealership to work for in the nation."
Mullins said $25 from the sale of each car goes to the Friendship Foundation, which has given heavily to causes like breast cancer research and a number of other good causes. Locally the dealership has supported Little League teams, Steps To Hope in Polk County, the local schools, Kidsenses, the backpack program, The 5K cancer run sponsored by Smith's Drug in Forest City and other local charities.