Brothers run black-owned family business, look to future
Apr. 15, 2018
GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Julian Walls Jr. began working at his father's business, Walls Tire &?Detail, when he was 9 years old.
He started off washing cars, and the work wasn't easy —?but he says it taught him good habits.
"I ain't gonna lie; I hated getting up every morning. Every summer, we were up here," he said. "But it paid off. And I honestly saw the reason why, because if you don't work, you don't eat."
Walls, 29, now runs the business with his brother Christian. He likes meeting people, doing the work and even keeping the building up.
"This is how we feed our kids, and I love it," he said.
Walls, the son of Julian Walls Sr. and Brenda Walls, grew up in Greenwood. In addition to Christian, he has three other brothers — Nicholas, Thaddeus and Michael — and a sister, Juliana.
He said his father, who started the business more than 20 years ago, didn't pressure him to go into it for the long term; he gave his children the chance to branch out and do other things. But when Julian Jr. graduated from Greenwood High School in 2007, he didn't know what he wanted to do next, so it seemed like the natural step.
"I thought about the Army, but then I came to just follow the family business," he said.
He and Christian, who is 26, have been running the business in the two years since their father left to work for J.J. Ferguson — but Julian Jr. said he was being prepared for the job long before that. In fact, for one period of three or four years, he and his father were the only ones there, so he benefited from doing hands-on work with someone who had the experience.
He said his father always dealt with him fairly: "It was tough love, but at the same time it wasn't too tough."
The first workday after his father had moved on was stressful, but Julian Jr. realized he just had to stay calm and figure things out, and he had a good foundation.
"A lot of things went wrong, and I almost panicked," he said. "But one thing about my dad: He's that type of person that when he talks, it kind of sticks with you."
Julian Sr. also set a good example in another way: He had lost most of one arm in a factory accident before opening the tire and detail business, but he pressed on with a prosthetic limb to provide for his family.
Calling his father "a real soldier," Julian Jr. said he uses that as motivation every day, now that he has two children of his own. "He brought us from a one-bedroom in the 'hood to a three-bedroom," he said of his father.
Julian Jr. went to Nashville Auto Diesel College in Tennessee for about two years beginning in 2008 and at one time was interested in exploring other places, but he decided to return home to help his family.
"I could do something else, but at the same time, all my father worked for would be down the drain," he said. After all, he reasoned, his father has succeeded with only one good arm — and "if he can do that for 21 years, I can do it, and I've got two."
His father also remains just a phone call away if Julian Jr. needs help, although he doesn't have to call nearly as often now.
Walls said running the business has been challenging, and he has made the effort to keep his father's customers coming back while also attracting new ones. He plans to give the building on Johnson Street a new look by 2019, including a new roof and some repainting, just to freshen it up for those who come in.
"They're so used to my dad; it's us now," he said. "So I think we've got to give them a different perspective. That was his thing. Now it's our thing."
Walls takes pride in being the second generation of a black-owned business in Greenwood, and he wants to bring something positive to the community.
"I feel like I could've done something else, but it wouldn't be as much fun as it is now," he said. "I love people. I interact with people a lot. I wouldn't trade this job for anything in the world."
When not at work, Walls most enjoys spending time with his family. He has an 8-year-old daughter, Jayden, and a 7-month-old son, Julian III.
He hopes to continue his work "as long as the Lord gives me breath and we don't fall below the radar." And, having started early in the family business, he hopes his son will do the same.
In general, he just takes everything one day at a time.
"I pray to God every day that he allows me to get up and at least have the strength to open these doors one more day," he said. "I live day by day."
Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com