Terry Cole – Class of 1981
Owner/operator, Cole’s Auto, Inc., Morganton

Anyone who drives a car knows how important it is to have a capable, honest, and reliable auto service provider. Terry Cole, owner and operator of Cole’s Auto, Inc., in Morganton has built such a reputation for outstanding service.

“When I was a kid, I loved taking things apart to see how they worked. I guess I still do,” says Terry. “Only now I make sure to put them back together! My dad, Sherrill Cole, is a great auto mechanic, and I learned many things from him. He not only taught me a great deal about how to work on cars, but he also taught me how to run a business, the value of hard work, and the importance of being straightforward and fair with people. Customers appreciate someone that they can trust to be truthful and fair with them, and they will come back again and again with their business. It is true that ‘word of mouth’ is the best advertising.

The biggest challenge I face in the auto business is keeping up with all of the new technology. There’s always something new to learn about today’s cars, but I get a great feeling of satisfaction when I am able to find the solution. I have been known to shout ‘Praise Jesus!’ from time to time.

“I began working with my dad in his auto business in 1982. For many years our business was located on South Sterling Street in Morganton, but in 2019, we moved to our new location on Fleming Drive.

“Five years ago, I added auto sales to the business. I buy cars and fix them up to sell. Sometimes I sell cars for others. It is my hope that at some point in the future I can lease the service department to someone else and devote all of my time to car sales.

“My first job was at Giles Motors, where my dad worked at the time. I was 15, and I mostly washed cars. Later I worked at Emery Corporation after school, where I cleaned up but also later got to work with some of the machinery. I continued to work at Emery while I attended CVCC, where I studied Mechanical Engineering Technology and earned an Associates Degree in Applied Science.

“I had some great teachers. My all time favorite was my fourth grade teacher, Mary Hewat. She was kind and really cared about her students. She impressed me, too, because even after her elementary students had grown up and moved on, she often kept contact with support and encouragement. My junior high track coach, Glenn Winters, was also really helpful to me. I enjoyed running track and was good at it. I had several teachers at East Burke who really helped me along the way. Pat Kelly, Wade Hildebran, Carroll Franklin, and Chet Pack were great. I enjoyed studying auto mechanics and other classes in the technology field. Mr. T.W. Wall was also a great principal and was a real encouragement to me.

“One of the most enjoyable activities I did in high school was being a part of a rock and roll band. We started in junior high but continued to play at clubs and other events throughout high school. The band members changed over the years, but they included my good friends Scott Oliver, Philip Whisnant, David Berry, Terry Bedford, and Todd Temple. The name of our first band was ElectroMist, and we later changed it to Ambition. We enjoyed playing heavy metal songs by groups like KISS and ZZTop, and one of our favorite songs to play was an original one called ‘Electric Death.’ One of my best memories was of the day Mr. Wall allowed our band to play for school assembly. I was the sound engineer for the band at the time. I remember that we had a show that same evening in North Wilkesboro, and we had to pack up quickly and hit the road! Great memories!”

Terry not only operates a successful business; he also enjoys helping people who need a hand. He is very active in the food ministry at Drexel First Baptist Church and often seeks out others who need help, especially during the holidays. “I’ve been really fortunate in my life, and I get a lot of satisfaction in helping others.”

Independent business owners are the heart and soul of any community, especially when they perform a much-needed service. The relationship between the business owners and the public is to be valued and nurtured, not only to benefit the local economy but also to strengthen community bonds. “Over the years, my family and I have made so many friends and are so appreciative of their business. It’s a great relationship.”

Published April 2020

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