Running a Tire Shop While Homeschooling

By ELISA MAYO,

Jennifer Hughes co-owns BJ’s Tire & Service Center with her sister, Renae Grubbs.  BJ’s has been a part of the community for twenty-five years when their mother, Janice Grubbs, purchased it.  The sisters continued their mother’s business after she passed in 2008.  “Mother thought she had the flu.  We found out she had pancreatic cancer instead and we had 11 months with her after she got sick,” says Jennifer.  With teary eyes she continues, “We took over the business because we promised her.  She wanted us to keep this.  She wanted Quitman to still have this as a tire store.  And we said, we’d do it.  We’d try.” 

Jennifer and Renae swap out days they work at the service center.  BJ’s still does tire and mechanical work and still carries the name their mother gave it, BJ’s for Burns & Janice.  Burns being the girls’ daddy.  “It’s not easy to be self-employed.  It’s expensive.  Sometimes we wished the community as a whole would be more loyal to local business, or at least, call us for a quote and give us a chance.  But it’s been a good business for us and we’ve been able to carry it on for mother,” explains Jennifer.  She also met her husband, Johnny Hughes, through her mother’s tire shop, “I would come down from Memphis and visit mother and she’d send me to Napa for parts.  Johnny’s family owned the parts store and we met.  Mother also became a fan of dirt track racing.  She would sponsor the racers.  Johnny also raced cars there and I tagged along with mother to the races.”  Even though Jennifer never envisioned she would make a life back in the community, her mother’s decision to purchase the tire shop changed her life, “I remember mother telling me she was buying the shop.  I asked her if she had ever even changed a tire.  Of course, she hadn’t, but she learned how to do it.” 

The flexibility of co-owning the business with her sister has allowed Jennifer to homeschool her twins, Ellie and Spencer.  It also allowed the family to spend weekends at the race track, “It just worked for our family.  Homeschooling made sense for us,” says Jennifer, “The kids were with me every day.  There were times I missed my coffee after Johnny would take them to school and there was total silence in the house, but once I decided to homeschool, those days were over.  It was a 24/7 job.” 

Though being an entrepreneur and homeschool mom wasn’t always easy Jennifer looks back at their life and says, “I was so fortunate to be able to bring them to work with me.  Homeschooling is one of the hardest things that I have ever done.  It is one of the most stressful things and it is also one of the most rewarding things and one of the most worth it things.  The kids have had a lot of experiences and they have also been able to not have experiences and I think that is a bonus.”

While both children raced cars with the family, Spencer has worked to make a career out of something he’s been doing from an early age.  Jennifer explains, “Spencer started building cars at the age of 14 and started paying taxes the same year.  He is the youngest racer to win a national championship in the street stock division.  The kids would not have had the opportunities to explore careers like they have if it wasn’t for the way we schooled.” 

Ellie raced along with Spencer but found her heart was in animals. Ellie started working with Ashley (Bentley) at the local vet’s office to gain experience in her chosen career field, “I’d rather she get the experience of being a vet now than after so much money has been spent on college,” explains Jennifer.  Ellie was the recipient of a scholarship from the 2019 Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions.  “Both kids have been able to pursue their career interests as teens,” says Jennifer, “You can’t do that in school.”

The kids will graduate this year.  They have taken college courses, studied their fields of interests, worked in their fields of interest and now Jennifer says, “I’ve joked that for their 18th birthday I am buying them luggage.  I feel like my goal as their parent was to get them out of my house as a fully-functioning adult.  As it gets closer to them being gone, I do think maybe not just yet!  But, I know it’s time.”

Jennifer’s college degree is in graphics design and she has done freelance work in that field as well.  She also serves on the board of Illuminations Center for Dyslexia in Meridian, MS.  In her free time away from work and her responsibilities as the teacher for her children, Jennifer enjoys reading, knitting, and photography.  When asked about owning her own business in Clarke County, Jennifer says, “It’s a good place.  People are still surprised to learn that Renae and I own this tire shop.  It’s funny.  Because I know how it is to be in business, I try to support local moms who have businesses here.  I think we all should.”