NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - By Jena Johnson
In the aftermath of a massive Thursday evening fire, the founder of Nacogdoches' Wells Automotive hopes his son will rebuild from the ashes of a family-run business that has been a community fixture for about 45 years.
The mechanic shop that 88-year-old Bill Wells opened 45 years ago is now a mass of tangled, twisted metal. When he retired, his son, Paul Wells, took over the family business.
"Of course it's a big loss for me because that is 45 years of my life down there even though I am not working there anymore," Bill Wells said. "We have a lot of good customers."
While the actual cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time, the blaze at Wells Automotive is believed to have started near an electrical box located near the back of the business at about 8 p.m. Thursday. Bill Wells said they heard several loud explosions, and then flames quickly spread through the building.
The business, which was located at 4125 State Highway 7, was a total loss. A truck parked inside the shop was destroyed as well.
In all, more than two dozen trucks from area fire departments responded to the fire. They battled the blaze for about two hours before they managed to get it under control. However, the fire rekindled during the night, and fire crews returned to the scene to hose down hot spots.
Firefighters were able to save Bill Wells' home. At the time of the fire, Paul Wells was on vacation in Colorado.
Several loyal customers dropped by to offer their sympathies as the Wells family assessed the damage. Many of them spoke about the honesty and fairness exhibited by Wells Automotive's owners and employees.
Danny McKenna said the people at the shop repaired his truck's air conditioner last week. He was devastated when he heard that his favorite auto shop had burned to the ground.
"People have been going here for 30 years and the reason why they come here is because they've always been honest," McKenna. "And to see it like it is now is a terrible thing to see because this is their livelihood."
In the flames, Bill Wells saw thousands of good memories go up in smoke. His son grew up working with him in the shop.
"He worked there with me since he was six or seven years old, and I was hoping that he would take it over," Bill Wells said. "And I didn't know if he'd be interested in mechanical work, but he is and so he owns the business now."
Bill Wells said he believes his son will rebuild the business that his family and the town has grown to love.