Tucker's Shop, located on Highway 77, south of Manila, turned 50 years old on Christmas Eve, 2009. Owner Bobby Tucker said he was so excited about going into his own business he even opened on Christmas Day in 1959 selling fireworks.
(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
"My Dad owned the pool hall in Manila (Joe Bill's Pool Hall) for 28 years when he retired in 1976," Tucker said. "I remember wondering how anyone could stay in the same place, doing the same thing for 28 years. I know now it is not hard to do. The years have passed fast."
Tucker said he grew up working for his dad. Joe Bill's Pool Hall was famous for its chili cheeseburgers, hamburgers and chili cheese dogs. Tucker's mother made all the chili for the pool hall. She would cook 50 pounds every week.
"We would start on Thursday making up the patties and on Saturdays we would sometimes sell a thousand burgers," Tucker said. "We started cooking at 10 a.m. and we were still selling burgers after the midnight show."
After high school and a couple years of college, Tucker went to Texas and worked as a pipe fitter. It was then when his dad bought Grover Yarbro's station and Tucker's shop was born. Tucker came home from Texas to run the business and the rest is history. The salvage yard was already there and Tucker was a Gulf dealer for the next 25 years. Tucker thinks the salvage yard was started by Dan Brown. Tucker partnered with Marvin Martin for a year in the shop.
Tucker added a wrecker service in 1961 with one small wrecker. The business has continued to grow and he now has a fleet of three large wreckers. A body shop was added in 1965 with Walter Briley managing the body work. The body shop was operational until 2000 when Tucker decided to get out of the body work business.
Today Tucker still has the garage for repairs, the towing, the salvage business and storage. Tucker said the half century has been good for him and never a dull moment.
Tucker was part of the Hi Rollers Barbecue Team -- the 1986 State Champion Barbecue Team.
"We had a great time," Tucker said.
Some of the team members included Jim Berry, Bob Farmer, Jimmy Adams, Bobby Bell, Cotton Morris, and Max Schrader.
"We won third place in the whole hog division at Memphis in May," Tucker said. "When Ronald Regan was president the Hi-Rollers also cooked for Vice President Bush in Columbia, Mo."
Paul Carter manages the shop and has been with Tucker for 22 years. Cotton Morris still works in the shop from time to time, along with his grandson, Michael Morris. Some of the long time former employees include Doyle Gilbert and John Holms.
Tucker's shop is part of the area's history.
"Some of the residents around here told me years ago this was the original site for the Stump School," Tucker said. "Gerald Costner said he went to school here.
"I raised my kids here. They both worked here during their growing up years. My daughter said she learned how to change her own oil."
Tucker's daughter, Karla Williams, is a registered nurse. She and her family live in Jonesboro. His son Dean is an Engineer and he and his family live in Heber Springs. Alecia Downing, his step-daughter, is a Human Resource Manager and she and her family live in Manila.
"I raised my kids here, I've made a living and I've made a lot of great friends," Tucker said. "I am happy I have been able to stay in my home town of Manila.
Tucker has been a member of the Manila Lions Club since 1969 and is past president. He also served on the Manila School Board. He and his wife Linda married in 1976 and make their home near the business. She helps with the towing calls and bookkeeping.
Tucker's is a family business.
"This is home and I am happy to have been here for my customers for 50 years," he said.
The Tuckers have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and love spending time with them.