New building, newish name: Introducing Wahl-McAtee Tire
By ANDREW MCGINN
A check engine light doesn’t faze the staff at Wahl-McAtee Tire and Service.
Their new phone system, on the other hand, is a little more perplexing.
“Bear with us if we hang up on accident,” co-owner Miranda Wahl said.
They can flush a transmission, no problem — it will take a while yet before they figure out how to put someone on hold.
But if that’s the only challenge of relocating a local institution after 52 years from West McKinley Street to Highway 4, then the Wahls should have years to come of good luck.
“It’s flowing better than we anticipated,” Mike Wahl said Friday, just a few days after opening in a new location within sight of U.S. Highway 30.
The Wahls bought the business in July 2016 from Dean McAtee — Mike’s grandfather — with the intention all along of moving it away from the railroad tracks and out from under the shadow of the Elm Street overpass.
But while they can physically move the business, they’ll never be able to move away from what Dean McAtee started on March 1, 1966.
Like the name Bunkers, the McAtee name is so ingrained in everyday Greene County life that even 20 years from now, the easiest way to spot an out-of-towner will be if they say, “We got a flat tire fixed at Wahls.”
Still, Mike and Miranda Wahl figured it wouldn’t hurt to at last add their own name to the business.
“New building, new name,” Miranda said. “We’ll always be McAtee Tire. The Wahl is just an added bonus. We’re proud of the history here, so it’s 100 percent fine.”
Built almost entirely by local contractors, the new location gives them five times the working space they had on McKinley Street.
Before the move, they frequently would have to fold in the mirrors on some pickup trucks just to get them into the shop.
They also gained a hoist in the move, going from four to five.
Semis now have more adequate room to make deliveries without blocking traffic.
“Back when that building was built,” Mike said, “they didn’t have 56-foot trailers and double-sleeper cabs.”
But some things remain — they’re still true to the Goodyear blue.
Dean McAtee was such a force for the tire company, in fact, that to celebrate his 40th year of business in 2006, the legendary Goodyear Blimp spent a week in Jefferson.
There’s no reason to believe the blimp won’t touch down again in Jefferson 40 years from now.
“I always said I’d never be in the tire business,” Mike, 30, confessed.
Growing up in Rockwell City, he’s actually been in the business “since I could roll a tire,” he said.
His parents own the Wahl-McAtee shop in Rockwell City.
After opening his first store in Jefferson, Dean McAtee eventually branched out to Rockwell City, Atlantic and Marshalltown.
The Jefferson, Rockwell City and Marshalltown locations are still in the family, but McAtee recently sold his Atlantic store to his longtime manager there, Mike said.
Mike and Miranda met while at UNI and have two kids, ages 7 and 4.
Admittedly, they had differing opinions at first on what to do about day care.
As Mike explained, if he had his way, the kids would be at the store putting away tires.
“There’ll come a day when Dad’s done putting away tires,” he said.
It probably won’t be anytime soon.
Even to this day, Miranda pointed out, Mike can visit his dad’s store in Rockwell City to find a stack of tires waiting for him.
And, yes, he still dutifully puts them away.
The Wahls will officially celebrate the opening of their new location March 30 by hosting Java & Juice from 9:30 to 10 a.m.
The festivities will continue into the afternoon with a bounce house and the Farm Bureau pedal-pull tractors.
It could be the quietest grand-opening celebration in McAtee history.
As 43-year employee Everett Beebe put it, “I don’t miss the train whistle.”