Henry “Mack” Meckfessel’s life spanned 100 years from 1900 to 2000. And during his career, he started a tire company in Belleville in 1927 that is still operated by the third generation of Meckfessel family members.
Mack Meckfessel teamed up with John Pintar to open a tire shop at 1214 W. Main St. in Belleville in 1927. But a year later, Pintar decided to open a shop in his hometown of Collinsville. Meckfessel then established Meckfessel Tire Co. at 415 W. Main St. in Belleville where the business continues today as Meckfessel Tire & Auto.
Meckfessel and his wife Emily, who was known as “Millie,” operated the business and lived in an apartment above the shop at 415 W. Main with their children, Jeannette and Bill.
Bill Meckfessel, along with his wife, Jean, then started running the business in the 1960s and they raised four children, Mark, Kurt, Kent and Mandy.
Mandy Wuebbels and Mark Meckfessel now operate the Belleville business and a second shop that opened in Smithton about 11 years ago on Center Street. Kent Meckfessel worked in the family business for about 20 years and currently teaches in the automotive program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Mark said the Carbondale campus offers “one of the best automotive programs in the country” and that Kent continues to help train Meckfessel Tire & Auto’s 13 employees with the latest technology.
Although the company began as a tire company, over half of the business today involves vehicle repairs and maintenance, Mark said.
Bill and Jean Meckfessel have since retired from the day-to-day operations.
“When I have questions for dad, sometimes he gives me the answer, ‘Mark, I want to sleep at night.’ He doesn’t want to have to worry about the business,” Mark said.
Last month, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert gave a framed proclamation to the Meckfessel family during a City Council meeting to recognize their 90 years of service in the city.
Mark Meckfessel, 52, and Mandy Wuebbels, 41, recently met with the News-Democrat to talk about Meckfessel Tire & Auto:
Q: How did your family establish the company 90 years ago?
A: Mark: “Our grandfather had a partner the first year in business, his name was John Pintar. John was from Collinsville. They opened the business (at 1214 W. Main St.) The first year together it was called Pintar Tire. John Pintar wanted to move the business back to Collinsville, where he was from, which he did. There was a Pintar Tire back in Collinsville, which we outlived them by probably 50 years or better. But my grandfather bought him out, and they moved to this location, here, 415 W. Main. My grandparents got married in ‘27, and they bought the building here.”
Q: When and how did you get into the family’s tire business? Were you working somewhere else and came back to the family business?
A: Mandy: “I guess as a kid you always wanted to follow in the family footsteps. All of us went out and got our college educations. We all got our bachelor’s degrees, worked elsewhere and kind of brought some experience back into the business. I worked for Toyota Financial and a few other places before I came back in. I’ve been back in the business going on 16 years.”
A: Mark: “Coincidentally, I worked for Toyota right out of college. I worked for them in their national headquarters out in Southern California, and they moved me to New York, and I decided I liked Belleville,” he said with a laugh. “And I’ve been back in the business since 1990.”
Q: How does it feel to carry on the family tradition?
A: Mandy: “It’s a privilege. I realize through the Depression and the war and everything else, my grandpa, my dad and for that matter, grandmother and mom worked very hard to carry this business on. I’m very proud of that.”
A: Mark: “We’re very proud of the heritage. Every year it looks more and more challenging to make it move onto the next generation, but we hope to do that.”
Q: Why has Meckfessel been able to stay in business for 90 years?
A: Mark: “It’s always been slow growth and taking care of our customers. I also believe that you’ve got to take care of your employees to take care of your customers. We’re very fortunate to have long-term employees and in turn, long-term customers.”
Q: The future may bring electric cars everywhere and self-driving cars, but they’re still going to need tires. What’s the outlook for your business?
A: Mark: “We’re always looking at ways to stay ahead of the curve. We do a tremendous amount of auto service now. That’s over 50 percent of our business now, the auto repair and service side. So yes, we work hard to stay on top of the technology. My brother Kent comes in and gives us training every now and then. We go to training weekends and seminars and meetings all the time. Even just changing a tire isn’t simple any more with the tire pressure monitoring system. That’s all computerized.”
Q: Has the internet affected your business?
A: Mark: “Absolutely. As of about a month ago, we are officially selling tires online, which was a huge step forward for us. We’ve got to keep up with the times. They still have to come in here for us to install them. But they can price, pick out, order their tires and even pay for them online then we set up an appointment to install them. Just recently Michelin and B.F. Goodrich announced that they’d be selling tires directly to consumers and having us install them, and we’re working towards that.”
Q: What is your view of the downtown Belleville business scene?
A: Mark: “We’re excited about downtown. We’re a little isolated here on the west end from all the excitement on East Main, but we see good things in downtown Belleville, that’s for sure. It’s a lot better outlook that it was 10, 20 years ago.”
Mandy Wuebbels and Mark Meckfessel
- Job: Operators of Meckfessel Tire & Auto at 415 W. Main St. in Belleville and 1 Center St. in Smithton.
- Contact: www.meckfesseltire.com or 618-233-0014 in Belleville and 618-234-0014 in Smithton.
- Mandy Wuebbels on continuing the family business: “It’s a privilege. I realize through the Depression and the war and everything else, my grandpa, my dad and for that matter, grandmother and mom worked very hard to carry this business on. I’m very proud of that.”