Alligood’s Garage going strong at 107
At least three Beaufort County businesses have reached centenarian status. This article profiles the kid brother of the bunch, Alligood’s Garage, which checks in 107 years old.
It had been only five years since Henry Ford’s Model T began production when Harley K. Alligood opened his namesake garage in 1913 in Washington. Woodrow Wilson succeeded William Howard Taft as the 28th president, the federal income tax was born and the mercury hit 134 degrees in Death Valley, California, still the hottest recorded temperature in the United States.
Alligood signed a distribution agreement with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1915, a deal that would lead directly to the garage’s success and survival 100 years later.
Brothers William Mac and Harley K. Jr. moved to the top of the company ladder when their father died in 1975. Current owner Bill Mac Jr. started with the company a year later, upon graduation from Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College.
“My dad and uncle did everything they could to discourage me from coming into the business,” Bill Mac Alligood said with a laugh. “Vietnam had just ended, and the economy was strong. I liked to hunt and fish and wanted to stay somewhere in eastern North Carolina, but the companies I was interviewing with couldn’t guarantee that. I decided to come home, and here I am.”
Alligood’s Garage moved to its current location at the corner of Market Street and 6th Street in 1918 after starting out on Harvey Street. Harley Sr. built the current shop around the old one in 1936, keeping the shop open while the new façade was going up around it, then tore the old one down upon completion without missing a workday.
“I’m sure it was all OSHA-approved,” Alligood chuckled. “My grandfather had a machine shop in here for a number of years. There was no AutoZone where you could go get the parts that a customer might need, so he made them. He had a press and a lathe to create whatever he needed.”
Uncle Harley Jr. retired from the business at age 80 and died in 2016 at 100.
“I bought out my uncle when he retired and ran things with my dad until he died at 90, four years ago,” Bill Mac said. “He would come in two or three hours every day until almost the end. Now it’s just me.”
Alligood said business has been consistently good despite challenges any 107-year-old would face. That includes the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, multiple wars, more hurricanes than the family can count and COVID-19.
“My grandfather was so well-established with Goodyear and Ford later that he had access to parts, tires and other merchandise that other, newer distributors couldn’t get during the Depression,” Alligood said. “We had 4.5 to 5 feet of water in here for Florence and a little less for Floyd, Dennis, Matthew and the others, but we just clean it up, air it out and keep going. This virus hasn’t had much impact, thank goodness. I take the proper precautions and trust my customers to do the same.”
The 67-year-old Alligood thinks the third generation might be the last, as his two sons are well-established in their careers.
“I told them the same thing my dad and uncle told me, and they’ve listened so far,” Alligood said. “Their jobs have insurance, vacation and other benefits, so it would be hard for them to take this on at this point.”
Alligood is non-committal as to when the last day might be. He said business is still going strong and the long-standing Goodyear relationship is still rock solid.
“They told me we are among the five oldest family-owned Goodyear distributors in the world,” Alligood said. “They still make a quality product and the brand is still very well known. We’ve been blessed to have contracts for city, county and state vehicles for a long time, and we have loyal customers who tell the newcomers about us. I’m very proud that we’ve been around so long. Besides, my wife (of 39 years) tells me I have to have somewhere to go to stay out of her hair.”