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Taking A Gamble On The NAPA Store

The Harrodsburg Herald of Harrodsburg, Kentucky

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One day Stuart Martt came home from work and told his wife, Janie, that he wanted to buy a tire shop in Harrodsburg.

It was the 1980s and they were living in Winchester. Janie was a registered nurse and Stuart worked in trucking. "We had to uproot our family, everything," Janie said.

They opened Harrodsburg Tire and Automotive in 1985 and the gamble paid off. Today they also own Auto Martt Used Cars and the new NAPA Auto Parts—formerly Car Quest Car Parts all in Harrodsburg.

They are both deeply appreciative of their success, and they both deflect all credit to their employees. "We've hired people to run our businesses who are very, very smart and very, very educated and very, very experienced," Stuart said.

It is not unusual for Stuart to announce out of the blue that he wants to take a big risk. In fact, it happens a lot.

"I enjoy the challenge," Stuart explained.

"He's a risk-taker," Janie said." Me, I hang on for dear life."

Like theday Stuart announced he wanted to become a farmer.

"Are you having a midlife crisis?" Janie remembered asking him at the time.

"I didn't want my kids raised in the city and I wanted them to appreciate hard work," Stuart explained.

They bought a cow-calf operation in Mercer County, 100 head of cattle on 175 acres, while raising four children Courtney, Brittany, Weston and Gabriel, who had cerebral palsy and needed constant care while Stuart ran Harrodsburg Tire and Janie worked as a home health care nurse. Also, she bred dogs.

Oh, and while they both had grown up on farms, neither one of them really had any experience.

"When I think about it now, it seems impossible," Janie said.

They did it for 11 years, until their children were grown. They sold the farm 10 years ago.

They're taking it easy now, working 10 hours a day. Janie, who gave up nursing 13 years ago, handles customers and the paperwork at Harrodsburg Tire while Stuart works there and oversees their other businesses.

They met in church when they were children, started dating at age 18 and now they spend pretty much every waking minute together. Janie said it works because they complement each other.

Stuart said the secret of getting along was simple: "Just do it her way and everything goes good," he joked.

He said female customers tend to be more comfortable with Janie but male customers can go either way. Some men only want to deal with Stuart, but some prefer talking to her. Janie said they'll say, "Why would I want to talk to that ugly old man when I can talk to you?"

It was a big leap they took 30 years ago, but it's paid off. Their children graduated from Mercer County schools, got married and started families of their own here. Janie is especially thankful for the community at the Galilean Home Ministries in Liberty, where her son Gabriel, who passed away in 2008, spent the last five years of his life. "He was in the hands of loving Christian people," she said. "I would never have found that if we hadn't come here."

They love Harrodsburg. "It's nice to work in a small town where you know all your customers," Janie said.

"The people are great," Stuart said. "It's a hard working environment. People take a lot of pride in what they do."

Much like Stuart and Janie Martt themselves. When asked why he wanted to own his own business, Martt shrugs and thinks a moment. "No restrictions," he said finally. "Nobody tells me what to sell. Nobody tells me what to do."

The phone rings and he's off and running as fast as his recently replaced knees will carry him to tend to his customers.

"He never knows when he's got enough to do," Janie said and followed him outside.

Copyright 2015 The Harrodsburg Herald, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 29, 2015

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