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Motor Parts Store grinds to halt after 67 years

George Tillet, 72, answers the phone at his store he’s owned since 1962. - Photo by Tracey Cooper
George Tillet, 72, answers the phone at his store he’s owned since 1962.
— image credit: Photo by Tracey Cooper

The chilled air inside Motor Parts Service shop is pungent with motor oil laced with cigarette smoke. George Tillet sits behind the white, somewhat cluttered counter. He answers the phone swiftly and pleasantly.

On most days Tillet, who turned 77 this week, is doing “not too bad for a young guy.” He deftly fields questions from car enthusiasts — something he’s been doing for nearly 60 years.

But when the year closes out, so will the 67 year-old-parts store.

The building’s owners have increased his rent from $600 to $3,000 of month as of January. For decades he had had a gentlemen’s agreement with building owner N.J. Peterson about the rent.

“I never had a lease ... They never bothered us and we never bothered them,” Tillet said. But Peterson passed away and the building now belongs to his estate. With the rent increase looming, Tillet can’t afford to stay in the aging building at Park Avenue and Fourth Street, but he can’t find another place to move to.

Retirement is not in his vocabulary.

“I don’t want to retire, go home and sit there and die like everybody else,” Tillet said.

A Bremerton native born “at the old hospital up on Veneta” he began working at the store in December 1945.

“I did what ever I could do when I was 18. I was afraid to even answer the phone,” he recalled.

In those days an operator would direct the calls and phone numbers had a fraction of the digits they have today. Park Avenue was an “auto row” of sorts with about 10 service stations and auto businesses. Tillet bought the thriving business in 1962. There were five guys working the front counter where Tillet now works alone. Two women managed the office.

Over time “The town moved out on us,” Tillet said.

“It didn’t start to deteriorate until JCPenneys and Sears,” migrated north to Silverdale he said.

Tillet attempted to purchase the building after he bought the business itself, but couldn’t gather the 25 percent down payment the banks required.

“Like a fool I just let it slide, let it slide and let it slide,” he said.

Now everything except for the machine shop must go.

“You can imagine how many things have accumulated in 55 years,” Tillet said.

Taking the inventory with him is not an option.

“It’s not like going out of business with shoes, you can’t take them with you and put them in your closet. You can’t send the stuff back to the factory,” he said.

Other car parts businesses won’t purchase the inventory.

Despite the deadline Tillet remains hopeful his business will survive.

“The best case scenario would be to leave us here,” he said.

“Or the worst case scenario will be we will be thrown out in the street, but I know we can’t pay $3,000 a month.”

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