Dickson Auto Parts manager retires after 55 years

Sep 25, 2013
Front to back: Neal McElroy, Wallace Messer, Joe Brown, Mike Snow, Jimmy Sawyer and Charlie Justice.

Plenty has changed in the auto parts industry over the past 50 years — just ask Wallace Messer, who has spent the majority of his life working in the business.

Messer, 78, started working at Dickson Auto Parts on North Haywood Street, Waynesville, as a front desk clerk Jan. 2, 1959, took over as manager in 1961 and he’s been there ever since.

Back then, Messer rarely dealt with imported cars — it was almost all American made vehicles like Chevrolets, Fords and Dodges. But nowadays, foreign made cars are a regular sight at the store.

“Very seldom did you have a lady walk through the door and buy a car or truck part,” he said.

But now, he sees women purchasing parts for their vehicles almost as much as men.

More than anything, the transition to modern technology has been the biggest change Messer has seen over the years. He remembers the days when everything, including inventory, was written on tickets. But now, all that same work is done on the computer.

Messer said he learned that putting customers first was the most important part of the job.

“I’ve always tried to treat them the best I could and make them happy,” he said.

But after a half a century managing the same store, Messer has decided to retire.

“I just thought I’d like to see what it was like to get up in the morning and not have to go to work every day,” he said.

His last day of work last Friday was just about like any other, except his co-workers knew that the following days would be very different without him there.

“He’s got all that knowledge stored up in his head that we can pick from and learn from,” said Joe Brown. “I’ve learned more from him behind the counter in the past seven years than from anyone else.”

Longtime coworker Charlie Justice said he’s known Messer almost all of his life.

“I consider him more family than I do a boss,” he said.

When asked if he thought if the store could get along without him, Messer said with a laugh, “Well, they had better.”

Messer plans to spend time with his family including his wife of 58 years and his two granddaughters. He also shows horses with his son and said he intends to go bear hunting a little. Then, after a short pause he said with a laugh, “Matter of fact, I may hunt a whole lot.”