Frasier Tire has become a Sumter staple over 50 years; Building relationships and a passion for work keeps Julian Frasier going


A total of 50 years in operation will classify any business as a Sumter classic, and Frasier Tire Service just celebrated its 50th anniversary locally in March.

Julian Frasier, now 86, is the business owner, and a key to the company's success, he said, stems from its willingness to service any tire - car tire, pickup truck tire, lawnmower tire, tractor-trailer tire, school bus tire or industrial equipment tire.

He founded Frasier Tire on March 1, 1974, and it was originally downtown at 105 N. Sumter St. and near Tuomey hospital. The tire and auto repair shop has been at 310 E. Liberty St. for 29 years, dating to 1995.

A Goodyear dealership in Sumter actually dates to 1923 with R.T. Brown Tire Co. Then, J. Clarke Hughes was the local Goodyear dealer from 1941 until Frasier took over in 1974 and expanded the business.

The Frasier family's association with Goodyear dates to 1932 when Frasier's father began working with the tire company.

Besides two years of active-duty service in the military, Frasier has spent his entire 60-plus-year career with Goodyear. Stops have included Miami, New York, Charlotte and several other cities along the way, but he calls Sumter home.

"I tell people I am a Charlestonian by birth, Sumter is my home," Frasier said.

The business is actually much more than a single tire and auto service center. The Liberty Street location also includes a large tire warehouse and an outdoor canopy area in the back for commercial trucks. A truck tire retreading plant is at 304 S. Harvin St. and services 6,000 public school buses across the state for the Department of Education and some of the fleet for the state Department of Transportation.

Frasier has two other tire and auto service centers - one in Columbia and another in North Charleston. The Charleston operation also services a couple plants with large industrial equipment tires, and the company also does 24-hour road service for fleets.

All those businesses require building relationships, which is a focus for Frasier, he said.

Long-time and faithful employees are also a key to success, and some have been with him for 40 or more years, he said.

Known for staying active and his personality, Frasier can be seen each morning riding his bicycle to the post office on Main Street to collect the company's mail.

"It's one of the few jobs that I am still qualified for," he said.

Here is a closer look at Frasier Tire Service with Julian Frasier.

Question from Item: What have been the keys to success for Frasier Tire?

Answer from Frasier: "First, I must give credit to the grace of God. He provides for everybody, and His hand has been in this business.

Next is a supportive family through time. If you are in business for yourself, your family has to support you. If everyone is pulling in a different direction, you will eventually fail by the second or third generation.

Next is loyal employees. I try to treat people right. If I need to give corrective criticism, I don't do it out there on the floor. That is what the office room is for. Don't belittle people but save their dignity. I want them to know that I am on the front lines with them.

Operating in a wonderful town and community, like Sumter, is also important. There are a lot of towns with good people.

Then, a 50-year relationship with one of the world's premier companies in Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

And, finally, having two 'lieutenants' - as I would call them. One is my Executive Vice President Kruno Cerovecki. My wife and I had him as an exchange student from Yugoslavia in the early '90s. We sent him to The Citadel for college. He can run this company from a laptop in the South Pole. He runs the joint. Kruno also does all the finance, insurance and taxation. As time goes on, I have just let him do it. At my demise, he takes over.

Then, my other 'lieutenant' is Chris Lee, and he is vice president of sales. He had 30 years in the tire business, and he came to me about three years ago."

Item: How do you compete with all the big chains as a mom-and-pop business?

Frasier: "The big chains don't do all the tires. They just want the easy stuff. We fix lawnmower tires, tractor tires, big tires for earth-moving machines, everything. You go to the chains; we don't even know they are here in town. I am not being facetious or anything. People's grass is growing now since it's spring, and you can see them getting out of their car here with their lawnmower tire.

To be honest with you, I can fix the big truck tire easier than the lawnmower tire, but you are serving that customer. Even our competition sends people to us. They say, 'We don't do that. Go up to Frasier and Goodyear on Liberty Street. They fix that.'

Next thing you know, you make pals with them. And then, the wife needs a set of tires, and they are back in here dealing with you.

We have repeat customers come in all the time.

Just like any business, we want to create a pleasant experience when people come through the door. When people walk out, we want them to say, 'Those were nice people. I enjoyed doing business with them.' And do them a quality job at a fair price. You do that, and it works."

Item: Have there been any hard times in the 50 years?

Frasier: "Of course, I have had hard times. I like to tell people that I have been broke twice. Being financially embarrassed is when you look in the checkbook, and you say, 'Whoa, ain't doing too good.'

If you have been in business for yourself and you have not had hard times, then you are not telling the truth. But you keep your bib overalls - your working clothes - on, and you don't give up. That is what happens at a lot of places - they give up."

Item: What's the key to personal longevity?

Frasier: "A good friend of mine is Dr. J.J. Britton. He just stopped practicing medicine. But he is a year older than me. He told me this one time: 'You got to have good genes, you got to take care of your body and not put a bunch of bad stuff in your body. And the other thing you need is L-U-C-K … luck.'

I used to play tennis for a long time, but a lot of my tennis buddies are deceased now. So, now I ride my bicycle every day to the post office to pick up the mail. I will also ride down to the retread shop sometimes, too. You got to keep your legs going."