For the farming community of Moniteau County and beyond that has worked with California Tire & Auto Service, formerly known as Taylor Tire Distributors, over the years, Richard "Dick" Tuttle was likely a familiar face.
Tuttle has spent the better part of 44 years working for the business in farm service, repairing and replacing tires on farm service equipment like tractors and combines.
Now, Tuttle has decided it's time to hang up his toolbelt. Dec. 30 marked his retirement, bookending a four decade-long career that began all the way back in October 1975.
"You know, it is (hard to walk away)," Tuttle said. "I'll miss my customers."
Over the years, Tuttle has worked with customers in several different counties, in some cases traveling as far as 75 miles away to assist clients on their farms. Even in such a large service area, Tuttle said he knew all the farmers he worked with well enough that getting around to people's properties was an easy task.
"We'd drive along the countryside and I'd ask 'who lives there, and who lives there?' And it's like he knows (everybody)," Tuttle's wife Cindy, sitting alongside him, said.
Tuttle said he's proud to have built up a good business during his career, and especially that he'd helped to bring customers from everywhere from Jefferson City to Mokane out to California to give California Tire their business. That's not to mention the relationships forged with the people Tuttle worked with over the years.
"(Former owners) Bob and Gary Taylor were such a big part of his life — our lives," Cindy said.
Tuttle agreed — "They were basically like family to us," he said. "(I) sure appreciated them and worked hard for them."
The pair eventually gave Tuttle and his wife the opportunity to buy into the company as part owners in 2001, when Bob was retiring. Following a scary workplace accident in 2015, Gary came out okay but not well enough to continue working, and the remaining pair of owners decided it was time to sell the following year.
All along, Tuttle said, he was thankful to the Taylors.
"Bob and Gary (gave) me the chance to be a part of the company, and I really appreciated that," Tuttle said.
As for what's next, Tuttle said he's not quite sure.
"(I'm not) saying I may not go back and work a little more, you know," Tuttle said. "I don't want to be committed to it, but I would like to go back. I've got to have something to do, you know? And I don't have a farm or anything."
Cindy chimed in, echoing Tuttle's busy mentality.
"You know what he was doing the first day of his retirement? He was on a service call," she said.
And besides, Tuttle said it really was hard to walk away from something he'd known for so long. The couple's children grew up around the shop, and other employees had become like an extended family.
"Our life molded around the tire shop," Tuttle said.
Tuttle said he appreciated his customers and the people who worked for him a great deal, and the shop was always fortunate to have such good help making things run smoothly.
"They made a world of difference," Tuttle said.