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KENLY — Star McLawhorn and Floyd Nichols are co-owners of Small Town Tire & Service of Kenly, which began operation on Nov. 13.
The business is located at 100 Church St. in a building most recently occupied by Sheela’s Restaurant. Several years prior, the site served as a Texaco service station.
Although the owners have been involved in the automotive field for a combined total of about 40 years, this is their first effort as business owners.
Small Town Tire & Service specializes in tires and tire-related services, oil changes, CV axles, batteries, heating and air-conditioning work and state vehicle inspections.
McLawhorn, the daughter of Ken and Sandra Renfrow, was born and raised in Kenly and attended Hunt High School in Wilson. She spent her time as a youngster washing cars and pumping gas at her father’s station.
“She grew up in our business from the time she was a baby,” said Ken Renfrow.
Since those early years, McLawhorn has worked in automotive sales and management for about 20 years, primarily in the Wilson area.
Nichols is from the Rocky Mount area and has likewise been involved with mechanic-type work for about 20 years.
“Fixing cars is my love,” said Nichols.
The new owners said the town’s “Friendly Kenly” moniker inspired the business name in honor of Kenly’s small-town vibe.
McLawhorn said they had started thinking about opening their own business about two years ago.
“We decided we did not want to continue working for other people and that we could do it better on our own,” she said.
Ken Renfrow, owner of Kenly Service Center who had been doing the same type of work for 50 years, encouraged McLawhorn and Nichols to pursue the venture, explaining that they’d never know whether the business would be successful unless they tried it.
After forming a business partnership, McLawhorn and Nichols had to find a location.
Enter Ricky and Debbie Cooper, who owned the building.
“We just let God lead us to this place,” said Nichols.
“The Coopers have been our godsend and a big part of making our dream come true,” said McLawhorn. “The entire building has been redone.”
“Our main thing is to be here, be good at what we do, be honest and be fair,” said McLawhorn.
She said that’s always been her father’s philosophy and it’s served him well.
“Friendly Kenly has been amazing,” said McLawhorn. “The businesses in town have all been very supportive and have helped us get started. It has taken a lot of planning and hard work to get here, but so far, everything is going great.”
“We have been busy and we have been blessed,” said Nichols. “We have learned a lot and we have already had some repeat customers.”