After 47 years Bob Wills of Wills Auto Service in Battle Creek at the corner of Columbia and Beadle Lake road has decided to hang up his socket wrench and call it a career.  I met with Bob yesterday and he wanted to express his gratitude to all of his customers and supporters.  Bob said:

“I thank all of my customers for my last 47 years of service.  I am retiring and a new business “Woodard Automotive” is coming in my place”

Bob and his business have been a Battle Creek establishment for so many decades his customers and the city will miss him.

courtesy of Tyler Woodward
courtesy of Tyler Woodard

The good news is a young Battle Creek man has stepped up to attempt to fill the shoes of Bob.  His name is Tyler Woodard, a young local entrepreneur and success story for the trades and for our local Career Center. 

I wanted to learn more about Tyler’s story and in doing so I found out how deep his love is for automobiles.  I spoke with Tyler and found out that he began working on cars with his grandfather while in elementary school. He helped him finish the restoration of a 1931 Ford truck. As a teenager, they worked on a 1951 Chevy truck which Tyler then bought from his grandmother following the passing of his grandfather. 

At age 16 Tyler kept bugging an owner of a garage in Kalamazoo to bring him on part-time. He finally won him over and he spent several years working in that small shop, learning many things about how to operate an independent garage. By then he was in his first year of the automotive program at Calhoun Area Career Center (CACC) and knew he wanted to do this for a career. His teacher, Mr. Tom Lowe saw his potential and challenged him to excel in his classes. 

After he graduated from CACC he worked at another independent shop and then moved onto dealerships, continuing his education at KVCC and successfully taking his state certifications one at a time. By the young age of 24, he was a Master Mechanic with 8 years of experience across several independent shops and 3 dealerships. 

It does not end there he also asked to serve on the advisory board for the auto program at CACC, continuing to learn and build relationships.  He was rocking and rolling his way in his career and then Covid hit.

During Covid, Tyler was laid off for the first time in his young career. He had always dreamed of owning his own shop and being laid off provided him an opportunity to focus on gaining some customers out of the 4 bay garage he and his wife owned at their residence. He was eventually called back to work but still yearned for his own business.

Then early last month Tyler learned that Bob Wills was planning to retire. Bob had been looking for someone to take over but had not found the right person. Once Bob and Tyler connected, they realized they had both served on the Advisory Board for the auto program at CACC. Bob has been as excited to help Tyler as Tyler and his wife Sydnee have been for finally finding such a great location to move their business into. Bob even offered to sell them all of his equipment.  As many people already know Bob is a great guy.  Bob knows what it takes to run a business and how difficult it may be for a young owner running his first shop.  Because of that, he offered them a discounted rental rate for their first year, to help them get off to a successful start at the new facility. 

There are some really great lessons and points for us to learn from this story. There are still young entrepreneurs out there starting new businesses and working hard to be successful. Training centers such as CACC and the RMTC give people the skills they need to have successful careers and even become successful business owners. Tyler worked hard and respected the people he worked with. Because of that he has had opportunities to learn at several businesses and was invited to be a part of the advisory board.

Now Tyler has started on a new chapter in his life a chapter that will always include Bob Wills and the help he gave him.

If you do not have a go-to mechanic then think about giving Tyler a chance at Woodard Automotive, previously Wills Auto Service.

Tyler Woodard  wanted you to know:

“Sydnee and I are excited to be taking over a thriving business that has served the Battle Creek area for over 30 years. We are striving to continue to provide top-quality service and competitive pricing. We are looking forward to serving Battle Creek and surrounding areas for many years to come and appreciate everything Bob Wills has done to help us transition into the new business and new ownership.”

As a side note, Tyler’s parents used to be my neighbors and I can vouch that he was brought up in a great family who instilled hard work and honesty into him.

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