I saw one of my favorite tire industry people on one of my favorite TV shows a couple of weeks ago. Corky Coker, president of Coker Tire Co., was featured on the History Channel’s program, “American Pickers.”

For the uninitiated, “American Pickers” is about two guys, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, who travel the back roads of America looking for barns, outbuildings, garages, junkyards and basements that might be brimming with hidden treasures.

The men search buildings and often pick through piles of what most people would call rusty junk, looking for items they can buy at a decent price and flip for a profit at their shop called American Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa.

The show is fun and educational, especially if you love antiques like I do. Some of the guys’ “picks” have included old cars, furniture, slot machines, circus posters and much more odd and wonderful stuff.

However, Wolfe’s passion is for old motorcycles. And it’s through that interest that he met Corky.

“I’ve known Mike and Frank for about 15 years,” Corky told me. “I run into them at vintage and antique motorcycle swap meets in places like Oley, Pa., Davenport, Iowa, and Wauseon, Ohio.

“On a regular basis, Mike will call me when he finds something I might like. He’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ve found a 1911 Excelsior motorcycle, it’s your style,’ and I’ll say, ‘Sure, I’ll take it!’”

Wolfe had long felt that his picking and selling business would be a good basis for a television show, Corky said. “Mike worked hard pitching the idea for the show for four to five years. Finally the History Channel agreed to take it on, and it’s just taken off! America has fallen in love with Mike and Frank. I’m really proud of them because they’re very genuine -- and the TV show’s viewers sense that.”

The way Corky got on the show was Wolfe called him last August when he was picking somewhere in east Tennessee and asked to meet Corky for breakfast. Following that, Wolfe, of course, went over to Corky’s shop to look over new additions to his collection of motorcycles and cars.

“It’s a fun relationship,” said Corky. “Mike and Frank like the same things I like. My building’s full of stuff they pick.”

After the tour of his collection, Corky said, “Kind of as an afterthought, Mike asks me, ‘Hey, are you interested in these two old signs I just found?’ We looked at them in his van, and I said, ‘Sure,’ and we made a deal. And the way it actually worked is the production company came in later and we reenacted the sale.”

There’s about a one-hour video on Wolfe’s visit to Coker Tire on the company’s Web site at www.cokertire.com, which Corky had to promise not to run until after the show had aired because “American Pickers’” producers didn’t want to give away the ending of the story before the segment was shown on TV.  (You can now see the video on the site; look for “Mike Wolfe visits Coker Tire Co.”)

 “The hook for 'American Pickers,' if you’re into antiques at all, is that you think, ‘Oh man, I’ve seen something like that. Look how much money I could have made with that!’ Or, “I like that kind of stuff, I wish they’d sell it to me,’” Corky said.

It’s not all fun and games for the stars of “American Pickers,” Corky pointed out. “They work hard, and they have to get dirty. And I can tell you they’ve had to deal with snakes and spiders and all that sort of stuff.”

New episodes of “American Pickers” run on the History Channel at 9 p.m. on Monday nights. Check your TV guides, though, because the shows are re-run frequently during the week.

You still have a good chance at catching Corky’s episode!

Author

Lori L. Mavrigian
Lori L. Mavrigian

Managing Editor

Since joining <I>Modern Tire Dealer</I> in 1979, Lori Mavrigian has held several key positions leading to her current title as managing editor. In addition to handling the day-to-day operations of magazine production, Lori writes features, contributes photography and is in charge of several of the magazines departments. She also works with the magazine's National Advisory Council for the exclusive Ludwig Report surveys. She earned a B.A. in Mass Media-Communications from the University of Akron.

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Since joining <I>Modern Tire Dealer</I> in 1979, Lori Mavrigian has held several key positions leading to her current title as managing editor. In addition to handling the day-to-day operations of magazine production, Lori writes features, contributes photography and is in charge of several of the magazines departments. She also works with the magazine's National Advisory Council for the exclusive Ludwig Report surveys. She earned a B.A. in Mass Media-Communications from the University of Akron.

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