Bob Wills of Battle Creek’s Wills Auto Service is retiring …
After 47 years, Bob Wills of Wills Auto Service in Battle Creek on the corner of Columbia and Beadle Lake Road decided to hang up his socket wrench and call it a career. I met Bob yesterday and he wanted to express his gratitude to all of his customers and supporters. Bob said:
âI thank all my customers for my last 47 years of service. I retire and a new company “Woodard Automotive” arrives in my place “
Bob and his business have been a Battle Creek establishment for so many decades that he will miss his customers and the city.
The good news is that a young man from Battle Creek has signed on to try to replace Bob. His name is Tyler Woodard, a young local entrepreneur and a success story for the trades and for our local Career Center.
I wanted to learn more about Tyler’s story and in doing so I discovered just how deep his love for automobiles is. I spoke with Tyler and found out that he had started working on cars with his grandfather while he was in elementary school. He helped him complete the restoration of a 1931 Ford truck. As a teenager, they worked on a 1951 Chevrolet truck that Tyler then bought for his grandmother after his grandfather passed away.
At 16, Tyler kept bugging the owner of a garage in Kalamazoo to bring him in on a part-time basis. He eventually won it over and spent several years working in this small store, learning a lot about how to operate an independent garage. At that time, he was in his first year of the automotive program at Calhoun Area Career Center (CACC) and knew he wanted to do this for a career. His teacher, Mr. Tom Lowe saw his potential and challenged him to excel in his classes.
After graduating from CACC, he worked at another independent store, then moved to dealerships, continuing his education at KVCC and successfully obtaining his state certifications one at a time. At the age of 24, he was a master mechanic with 8 years of experience in several independent stores and 3 dealerships.
It didn’t end there, he also applied to serve on the CACC Automotive Program Advisory Board, continuing to learn and build relationships. He was rocking and rolling in his quarry, then Covid hit.
During Covid, Tyler was fired for the first time in his young career. He had always dreamed of owning his own store and being laid off allowed him to focus on acquiring customers in the 4 bay garage that he and his wife owned in their residence. He was eventually called back to work but still yearned for his own business.
Early last month, Tyler learned that Bob Wills was planning to retire. Bob was looking for someone to take over but hadn’t found the right person. Once Bob and Tyler hooked up, they realized that they had both served on the CACC’s Automotive Program Advisory Board. Bob was as excited to help Tyler as Tyler and his wife Sydnee were to finally find such a great place to set up their business. Bob even offered to sell them all of his equipment. As a lot of people already know, Bob is a great guy. Bob knows what it takes to run a business and how difficult it can be for a young owner to operate their first store. For this reason, he offered them a reduced rental rate for their first year, to help them get off to a good start in the new facility.
There are some very good lessons and points to be learned from this story. There are still young entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses and working hard to be successful. Training centers like CACC and RMTC give people the skills they need to have successful careers and even become successful business owners. Tyler worked hard and respected the people he worked with. For this reason, he had the opportunity to learn in several companies and was invited to be part of the advisory board.
Now Tyler has started a new chapter in his life, one that will always include Bob Wills and the help he has given him.
If you don’t have a reference mechanic, consider giving Tyler a chance at Woodard Automotive, formerly Wills Auto Service.
Tyler woodard I wanted you to know:
âSydnee and I are thrilled to take over a successful business that has served the Battle Creek area for over 30 years. We strive to continue to provide superior service and competitive prices. We look forward to serving Battle Creek and the surrounding area for many years to come and appreciate all that Bob Wills has done to help us transition to the new business and owner.
By the way, Tyler’s parents were my neighbors and I can guarantee he was raised in a big family that instilled hard work and honesty in him.