GREENFIELD — Anyone driving past the many businesses that line Federal Street might notice one marquee set apart from the rest, decorated with a smile-invoking message. Longtime residents, though, know that there have been more than 1,000.
Although the shop boasts a 4.6-out-of-5-star average rating from more than 200 Google reviews, Tire Warehouse may be known better for its nearly four-decade-old tradition. Beginning in 1985, the year the business was passed down to Lennie Weeks by his father, his wife, Sue Weeks, began getting creative with the sign, brainstorming inspirational quotes, phrases and advice to share with the community.
“Lennie’s a townie from way back and we love the town,” Sue Weeks said, “so we just wanted to give back and inspire people.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a special on tires (posted to the sign). … People like our sign better,” Lennie added.
For years, the couple collaborated on changing the sign’s message each week to something they thought would resonate within the restrictions of the four-line, 15-character-per-line marquee. Not once, Sue said, has the company displayed the same message twice. Such a commitment proved to be an orderly each time, demanding not only thoughtful care and innovation, but a 20-foot ladder. Sue downplayed the inconvenience, however, and insisted that it was a worthy cause.
“It’s a small sign,” she said. “It’s a small effort, but it does ripple out.”
Through early April, the double-sided sign has displayed inspirational messages, “We can’t help everyone, but we can each help someone” and “Humankind: be both.” Other displays have included humorous quotes, such as “Never jump in a leaf pile with a wet lollipop!” from Linus of Peanuts, as well as timely addresses to specific parties, such as the “Thanks Olympians! Your strong shoulders carried the world’s hopes” message that was posted around the time of the 2021 Summer Olympic Games.
Come 2019, Lennie felt it was time to move on and passed on the business down to his son, Jarad Weeks, who currently owns Tire Warehouse. With a new era, Sue said she was prepared to step down from her position as “Secretary of Signage.”
“When Jarad took over, I wasn’t sure if he’d still need me,” she said.
This was a notion that Jarad quickly shot down.
“As long as we can keep her, (we will),” he said. “I got nervous that one day, I’ll be like, ‘What if I have to do this?’”
Continuation of the tradition did not come without its challenges, the family recounted. What had once been a weekly task had become a bi-weekly effort due to the effort it required. Perhaps the most profound obstacle, though, occurred just after Jarad took ownership of the business when an inexperienced delivery driver collided with the sign and destroyed it. In response, the family acted quickly and was able to install a new sign in just a week.
“It does look better than the old one,” Sue said optimistically. “The old one was yellowed.”
Over the years, community members have been open about how seeing the sign makes them feel.
“It changes their whole day,” Lennie said. “They come in, they have a flat tire, they’re broken down. Their whole mood changes.”
The family remembered one instance where a photo of their sign went locally viral on Facebook, receiving thousands of likes. Other less visible, yet more intimate, displays of appreciation have come in the form of letters. The family amassed so many that Lennie compiled a binder’s worth of them as a retirement gift to his wife from him “as a reminder of how much good she’s done for the world.”
Although she admitted coming up with both new and borrowed phrases has grown increasingly difficult after so many years, Sue expressed confidence in her ability to keep the tradition alive.
“If Paul McCartney can dream up songs,” she said, “then I can dream up sayings.”
The Weeks family invites those who have been positively impacted by their sign to send emails and letters remembering a favorite message that had been displayed. Those interested can email email@example.com or deliver a letter to Tire Warehouse at 291 Federal St., Greenfield, MA 01301.
Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.