Uncle Tom boss celebrates fifty years in the business

Business / Mon 27th Jun 2022 at 08:44am

A HARLOW garage owner who went from tea boy to tyre king is promising to drive his Harlow business into an exciting new era, after strengthening ties with the First Stop network on his 50th anniversary in the motor trade.

Laurence Nichols is one of the most familiar and friendly faces in town as the head of Uncle Tom’s Motorist Centre, which he named after his father who died in 1989.

The 63-year-old began by making the tea for his colleagues back in 1972, before his family business fully kicked into gear in 1976, alongside his father and brother-in-law. When Laurence’s Dad Tom passed away, he decided to change the name of the garage in his memory, and admits that thoughts of his father continue to spur him on, with the tyre expert showing no signs of slowing down.

In keeping with a journey towards a bright future, Laurence decided to renew his partnership with the First Stop network, which will enable his business to keep on improving, with even more strings to its bow than before.

He said: “Being a First Stop partner adds strength and professionalism to our automotive offering and as a result, our customers benefit from a better service. It gives us access to new information and greater scope for buying direct. Their relationship with Bridgestone is a really strong selling-point, as we are able to stock some incredible products in all sizes to meet the needs of our customers. The strength of the national network does provide a number of benefits.

“These include point-of-sale material and assistance regarding employment law and compliance matters which a community-based business like ours finds invaluable. Most importantly, the First Stop team will generate new customers through its proactive work and online marketing support, with more online sales expected.”

Laurence went on to reflect on an enduring career in the automotive industry, but said that his best years were still ahead of him.

“I started when I was 12 years old, when I was working as a tea boy. Within a year I’d moved on to wheel balancing, then I’d graduated to tyre fitting. Finally, in 1976 I worked in the family business.

“The name Uncle Toms Motoring Centre came as a result of the death of my father in 1989.  After considering all derivatives of ‘fast’, ‘speedy’ and ‘quick’, we decided to follow a family theme involving my father’s name.  This was based on the fact that he had several nieces and nephews and when any of them needed their cars repaired they went to see ‘Uncle Tom’ and that is where the name comes from.

“Has the industry changed much in the last four decades? Just a bit! We’ve moved from cross-ply to radial, for one thing. When I started, every tyre had an inner tube, for a start. The tyre sizes have dramatically increased and also the original equipment options.  It seems like every new model of car released has its own specific tyre fitment.”

Laurence may be an old hand in his chosen field but he’s relatively new to the First Stop network, in a blossoming relationship that will help his business run as smoothly as a well-oiled engine. As a result, Laurence is in no doubt that First Stop will help him extend a 50-year career way beyond his golden anniversary.

“I put my longevity down to moving from the workshop floor into total admin as the paperwork and legislation has increased and this is another reason why being part of First Stop makes sense.

“No, I won’t be stopping yet. I’d say that there’s at least another 10 years in me!”

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