By Benjamin Cohn
Weaverville – Local business owner and 2018 candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff Shad Higgins spent a few minutes with the Tribune last week, after getting back into his business, which was destroyed by an arson’s fire last year, to discuss his life, his business and his recovery from unimaginable tragedies.
Higgins is 43 years old and is a born-and-raised local. “I’m a native here to Buncombe County. I’ve always lived in the north end,” he said. He didn’t complete any post-high school degrees, but he did report going “to A-B Tech for a couple years, actually, in the law enforcement program. I didn’t finish that. I jumped track on that and decided to do, go another route.
“Automotive was the next route. I worked for Emory Electric,” an electrician company in Woodfin, and “done their purchasing there for years. It’s a family-owned business. I’ve been from working in the field to working up in, doing some purchasing in the office. That was interesting.”
Working his way up the corporate ladder at Emory Electric was fulfilling, Higgins recalled, but his life was missing something.
“I really enjoyed that [work at Emory], but I just felt like I needed to be out on my own. I wanted to do something for myself and for my family. I can’t say enough great things about how good it was at Emory Electric, but I just wanted to … be my own man.”
When asked about the origins of his fascination with machinery, he revealed that he’s, “actually been around race cars and fooled with automotive mechanic stuff, anything mechanical, probably, about my whole life.
“My dad actually worked on race cars. He actually worked for Banjo Matthews at Banjo’s performance center in the late ‘70s. When I was three-, four-, five-years-old I was at the racetrack or running race cars or fooling with something mechanically. I was always into riding dirt bikes or racing cars or fixing a hotrod or doing something, so I … enjoyed that line of work and decided I wanted to be in it.
“Fourteen and a half years ago, almost 15 years ago, … I was working at Emory Electric and coming over here [the old location of Weaverville Tire] and working from five to ten at night across the road at a little shop I started. It was my grandfather’s old gas station business … that’s where we started, just across the street. It’s been good to me. I come home one day and we took a few days off. My wife had had her third kid … and I told her I wasn’t going back to work [at Emory]. I wanted to go full-time in the tire business. She thought I was crazy at the time; she still thinks I’m crazy. We’ve been blessed.”
Despite his personal and financial success, grief lay right around the corner for the middle-aged father and mechanic. Higgins described learning the news that his business had burned down. The State Bureau of Investigation feels strongly that the fire was an intentional arson.
“That was heartbreaking, everything that you do and worked for your whole life and you get somebody from the fire department knocking on your door at whatever time it was, 4:30 or whatever in the morning, wake you up and tell you your business is on fire.
“You pull up and there’s flames 60 feet out the roof and everything that you worked for is burning up. It’s pretty tough. I did have insurance. We were fine on the building itself. You never have enough insurance for your content. You underinsure. I wished I had way more [fire coverage].
“We probably had $140,000 worth of tires that we’d just put in stock. We lost all those and just all the equipment. The equipment cost is phenomenal. I have re-bought everything. We’re back and running at 100 percent. [We’re] trying to work the bugs out of the building … how we want to do things, how we want things to roll. I think we’ve got a better layout, that is a positive to take out of it.”
Higgins ran an unsuccessful bid for Buncombe County’s Sheriff last year but has not ruled out running again in the future, but right now, he’s happy to be back home again with his business.