100 years of business in Warren

When I was a little kid in the early 40s, I often walked past a little business known back then as Thumm’s Tire Shop on my way home from Sunday school each week. I called it “Thumb’s,” but Dad corrected me and told me it was pronounced “Toom’s.”

Thumm’s, located on the curve of West Market a bit west of the West Market Street Bridge, was founded in 1909 by August Frederick Thumm. The little business specialized in tires (like Fisk, Goodyear, and Firestone), bicycles, and Harley Davidson motorcycles. William Doud Packard and James Ward Packard, founders of Packard Motor Car and Packard Electric, were early customers.

I loved to examine the strange-looking 1934 Chrysler Airflow that sat out front. It was owned by August Bennett Thumm — August Frederick’s son. I also saw Firestone Non-Skid brand tires that were newly mounted on the wheels of Model T Fords parked there.

After the 1913 flood that submerged most of that section of West Market, the shop was raised 16 feet to bring it up level with the newly-raised street. Many homeowners along that part of West Market Street received funds to raise their residences, but many chose to keep the money and climb uphill to street level from their homes.

The business turned to mostly bicycles after August Bennett graduated from Harding in 1942, and now it’s known as Thumm’s Family-Owned Bike & Clock Shop. New bikes that were sold on a priority basis during wartime (1942-1945) were blackout versions called Victory Bikes. Every piece of metal on those bikes was painted black, with a black saddle and skinny black tires. One of my playmates owned one of these bikes, and the only bit of color on her bike was when my dad fastened a wicker basket to those black handlebars.

Through the years, three generations of the name August Thumm remained as son and grandson have taken over as sole proprietors. August Frederick I passed in 1978, and August Bennet died in 1992. August Frederick II, the third generation Thumm, was born in 1954 and became sole proprietor of the business in 1991.

I sat in the breakfast nook in August (Augie) and Linda’s home, drinking freshly-brewed coffee as I interviewed this third generation of business success in Warren. Augie went to Tod Avenue and Horace Mann elementary schools; and Howe Military and Harding High schools.

The military school, located in Howe, Indiana, is a boarding and college prep school that prepares their students for leadership roles. Augie learned there that “If you don’t attain rank now, you’ll always be one who gets tossed around — and it will continue throughout your life.” Augie says that his military training put him at a distinct advantage which helped him in relating to people in all walks of life and in retail sales. He graduated from Harding in 1972.

This present-day Augie began working for the full summer at the bike shop when he was only 10 years old. The business at Thumm’s is the only thing that he’d ever want to do.

As the name states, the current business is involved with the sale of bicycles and clocks. The clocks are mostly the wall and mantle type, and the bikes are high quality and beautifully prepared for the potential customer.

My nephew Chad and Augie teamed up to help me in the restoration of my cherished bicycle that I have owned since I was five years old. Chad laced the stainless steel spokes onto the newly-chromed rims and hubs.

Augie says he has taken the bike business as far as one could go in Warren, and as far as the future is concerned, he added, “There will always be a real live bicycle person to serve you at Thumm’s.”

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

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