FORT MILL — Mike Wright, owner of USA Tire and Auto Care, had long been thinking about a mural to brighten up the auto shop’s corner of Doby’s Bridge Road. When he ran across an old postcard at a yard sale depicting an old-fashioned gas station called “Mike’s Garage,” he knew what he wanted the mural to look like.
“It was perfect,” Wright said.
Wright hired Fort Mill artist Caroline Harnish, who completed the mural last week. The mural is on the side of USA Tire and Auto Care, facing Doby’s Bridge Road. It is similar to the postcard, showing an old-fashioned gas pump and garage, but has some elements that were important to Wright, including willow trees and eagles.
“He had some great ideas about adding in some nature to the mural,” said Harnish.
USA Tire is a fixture of the downtown community. It has operated from its current location for more than 25 years. Wright bought the business nearly two years ago. He previously owned Rightway Automotive on Massey Street.
Wright didn’t change anything when he took over USA Tire, said office manager Tori Shaffer. He just added to the business, expanding it from a tire dealership to also include automotive care. The one thing they didn’t want to do, Shaffer said, is change the way people felt about the business.
The mural is, in part, a nod to the former USA Tire and the long-standing reputation they had built in the community, she said.
“We just wanted to keep the hometown feel to the business,” Shaffer said.
It’s also an attempt to give the neighborhood a bit of a facelift.
“The shopping center is kind of barren,” Shaffer said. “We’re hoping to make it look a little better.”
As Harnish worked on the mural, she received plenty of feedback, she said. People honked as they drove by on Doby’s Bridge Road. Some shouted at her, “Good job!”
“I enjoy painting for people, and I don’t mind painting in front of people. It’s a lot of fun interacting with them,” Harnish said.
Harnish has painted murals for churches and restaurants, but this is the first mural she has painted for a tire dealership. She is excited that the mural is placed so prominently in town and hopes it inspires other businesses to commission murals.
“It adds color and nature, and anything that adds color and nature will make it look more beautiful,” Harnish said. “It would be really fun to have more murals in Fort Mill. It would make it very attractive and of deeper interest to see that they encourage creativity.”