EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Anguished families planned funerals in two U.S. cities, politicians pointed fingers and a nation numbed by gun violence wondered what might come next Monday as the death toll from two weekend mass shootings rose to 31.
The attacks 1,300 miles apart — at a packed shopping center in El Paso, Texas , and a popular nightlife stretch in Dayton, Ohio — also injured dozens more. They became the newest entries on an ever-growing list of mass shooting sites and spurred discussion on where to lay the blame. President Donald Trump cited mental illness and video games but steered away from talk of curbing gun sales.
For all the back-to-back horror of innocent people slain amid everyday life, decades of an unmistakably American problem of gun violence ensured it wasn't entirely shocking. Even as the familiar post-shooting rituals played out in both cities, others clung to life in hospitals, with two new fatalities recorded among those injured at the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso.
As in a litany of other shooting sites before, the public juggled stories of the goodness seen in lives cut short with inklings of the demented motives of the shooters, and on-scene heroics with troubling ideologies that may have sparked the bloodshed.
Equally familiar, Washington reacted along party lines, with Trump's vague suggestion of openness to new gun laws met with skepticism by an opposition that has heard similar talk before.
"Hate has no place in America," the president declared in a 10-minute speech from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, condemning racism and rehashing national conversations on treatment for mental health, depiction of violence in the media, and discourse on the internet.
A racist screed authorities were working to confirm was left by the alleged perpetrator in the Texas shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, mirrored some of Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. Some, like Ernesto Carrillo, whose brother-in-law Ivan Manzano was killed in the Walmart attack, said the president shares blame for inflammatory language Carrillo called a "campaign of terror."
"His work as a generator of hate ended in this," said Carrillo, who crossed the border from Ciudad Juárez on Monday for a meeting in El Paso with Mexico's foreign minister. "Thanks to him, this is all happening."
Trump, in turn, tweeted that the media "contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up."
Trump suggested a bill to expand gun background checks could be combined with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation's immigration system, but gave no rationale for the pairing. Studies have repeatedly shown immigrants have a lower level of criminality than those born in the U.S., both shooting suspects were citizens, and federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive in the Texas massacre.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a leading voice on gun reform since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his state rattled the country with the slaughter of 20 children, immediately dismissed the president's proposal as meaningless. "Tying background checks to immigration reform is a transparent play to do nothing," he wrote on Twitter.
Whatever the political back-and-forth, or the re-energized presence of gun control talk on the presidential campaign trail, the very real consequences of gun violence were still being bared by victims badly injured in the two states.
In both incidents, a young white male was identified as the lone suspect. Though authorities were eyeing racism as a possible factor in Texas, where the alleged shooter has been booked on murder charges, in Ohio police said there was no indication of a similar motivation. Police in Dayton responded in about 30 seconds early Sunday and fatally shot 24-year-old Connor Betts. While the gunman was white and six of the nine killed were black, police said the quickness of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.
Betts' sister was also among the dead.
"It seems to just defy believability he would shoot his own sister, but it's also hard to believe that he didn't recognize it was his sister, so we just don't know," said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited the scene Sunday and said policymakers must consider: "Is there anything we can do in the future to make sure something like this does not happen?"
Hours later, hundreds of people stood at a vigil and vented their frustration at the Republican governor, interrupting him with chants of "Make a change!" and "Do something!" as he talked about the victims.
"People are angry, and they're upset. They should be," said Jennifer Alfrey, 24, of Middletown, who added that she didn't agree with interrupting the vigil but understood why so many did.
In Texas, where 22 were killed, authorities said the accused shooter drove nearly 10 hours from his home in a Dallas suburb. Authorities seemed to take some solace in knowing the shooter wasn't one of their own.
"It's not what we're about," El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said.
Sedensky reported from New York and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and https://twitter.com/sedensky
Contributing to this report were John Seewer in Dayton, Ohio; Julie Carr Smyth and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Cedar Attanasio and Morgan Lee in El Paso, Texas; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; and Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire in Washington.
This story has been amended to correct that the combined death toll from the shootings is 31.
Two mass shootings the day before this week’s Sunday church services left local pastors figuring out how to address the tragedies with their congregations.
Saturday afternoon, a shooter killed at least 20 people in a shopping center in El Paso, Texas. A few hours later, another shooter killed nine more people in Dayton, Ohio. Pastors had to decide how to handle the shock their parishioners felt, either through special prayers or changes to the planned sermons.
Rev. Ginny Tobiassen, pastor at Home Moravian Church, said she didn’t even know about the second shooting until she was already at the church on Sunday morning. She did not give the main sermon Sunday, but focused on the shootings in a pastoral prayer that comes at the end of each week’s service called “prayers for the church and the world.”
“Generally, this prayer will address a number of topics, but this was the only topic of prayer today,” she said on Sunday.
Her congregation, she said, was “expressing distress” about the two shooting incidents. “They were grateful for a prayer, I think,” she said. “I will say there’s a lot of distress, a lot of helplessness.”
“I share the reaction of my congregation,” she added.
Pastor Lia Scholl at Wake Forest Baptist Church did not change her sermon this week but added a prayer that she said has sadly become too common. After each mass shooting, she said, she does a specific prayer. “it’s the same prayer, and I get up, say it’s the same prayer and how much I wish I didn’t have to say this prayer again.”
The prayer, originally published on the Faith in Action Facebook page in 2013, says that the pain felt, lives lost, and tears shed in the most recent tragedy are those felt in previous tragedies. Scholl updates the prayer each time with names of more recent incidents and current statistics. “And today, I had to say, unfortunately, that was all before Dayton,” she said.
Rev. Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church, asked for special prayer for the families of those involved in the shootings.
“It was a prayer before the sermon in the Sunday School hour,” he said. “We asked the folks to lift these people up during the time of this great tragedy that had been brought upon them.”
He has changed a sermon because of a shooting, but he did not do that this time.
“If we preach to it all the time, we’d probably be preaching on it 50 percent of the time,” he said. “I have in times past had sermons about why people choose to do things of this magnitude.
“Our entire church is grieving over the tragedy, the loss of loved ones, the grief that they are having to experience because of the stupidity of the shooters, both in El Paso and Ohio.”
The Rev. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church was out sick Sunday morning, but said he had planned to change his Sunday sermon to address the El Paso shooting, carried out by a man who had allegedly posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online, and his belief that the shooter was influenced by comments made by President Donald Trump.
“My focus would have been on the tragedy in terms of the racist rhetoric that gives reason and a ridiculous rationale to, particularly, his base,” Mendez said. “It’s a stream of incidents that come from a common cause. Racism in America is as real and as popular as apple pie.”
However, as the topic of a tragedy such as these is addressed in churches, it’s important that those places serve as an area where such difficult topics can be discussed, said the Rev. Glenn G. Davis, head of the first responder chaplaincy program with Wake Forest Baptist Health.
“I’ve had many conversations with congregation leaders,” he said. “With any tragic event, not just a mass shooting but something that is so impactful upon any community, I think a key thing is, in the immediate aftermath, to ask ‘What should we do?’”
He said that it is important for pastors to give parishioners “time and space to grieve, ask questions, and express their emotions — senselessness, fear, anger, feeling numb — and really be prepared as a faith leaders for a multitude of reactions. Pastors are privileged to be with people through all kinds of rites of passage.”
In dealing with a situation like this, he said it’s important for pastors to help people struggling to feel safe and secure; give them a chance to vent their frustrations without judgment; and help them deal with trauma in their own ways.
“Some of the questions include what is our capacity to take care of ourselves if that should happen here, how do we care for one another and help each other heal,” he said.
HIGH POINT — At 14, Luka Kinard was vaping the equivalent of 80 traditional tobacco cigarettes a day.
The High Point teenager fed his addiction at home and at school, using common e-cigarette brands such as Juul to breathe in nicotine suspended with other chemicals in a vapor.
He eventually experienced cold sweats, persistent chest pains and, in September, a grand mal seizure.
His mother, Kelly Kinard, couldn’t make him stop vaping and wasn’t willing to let it continue. So she came up with an unusual solution: booking a spot for her son in a teenage addiction treatment program in California and convincing the family’s insurance provider to pay for it.
That trip to rehab turned out to be a transforming experience.
Kinard went back to his old self, in one sense. But he also began a new path: speaking out about his experiences, in settings across North Carolina, in other states and in Washington. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked him to take part next month in a meeting of a federal interagency committee on smoking and health.
Government and health leaders are alarmed by the popularity among teenagers of Juul and similar devices built to heat concentrated nicotine salts. The explosion in use of this newer type of vaping device and liquid has been followed by an upturn in teen vaping rates. From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use by high school students increased by 78%, to nearly 1 in 5 students.
Kinard’s use was extreme, but he’s not the only teenager who has battled an intense addiction to vaping or who has seen what may be symptoms of high levels of nicotine intake. Some teenagers are reporting vomiting after vaping or being unable to focus at school, said Dr. Sharon Levy, the director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Harvard Medical School.
With teenage vaping on the rise, and doctors raising concerns about its effect on teens, plenty of people have been interested in hearing what Kinard and his mother have to say about their experiences.
“My main goal throughout all this is not to tell kids to go stop doing what they’re doing,” said Kinard, who is now 16 and a rising junior recently enrolled in an online college preparatory program. “Because I know at the end of the day, I can’t make anybody do anything, you know. But I just want to raise awareness that there are a lot healthier ways to fit in, to cope, and just to be a teenager and get rid of all your worries. The sense of relief from it is never going to last forever.”
When Kinard finished middle school, he was an A student, he and his mother said.
“I was, like, a really nice kid, wanting to always go out and play sports and go outside and be around people; always liked having people’s company,” he said.
He also had always gravitated to having older friends. That summer, some of them introduced him to chewing tobacco.
It made him feel sick, he said, but he also liked the “head rush” feeling he got. He said he started to feel addicted, just from that one time. He had both a curiosity and an urge to do more.
Kinard used chewing tobacco for a while that summer, then progressed to cigarettes.
He would smoke three or four a day, usually, sometimes up to a pack. He tried to quit, but couldn’t make himself do it.
Cigarettes had other downsides, too.
“I mean, you walk into a classroom, or you walk into a building or a house, you smell like cigarette smoke, you’re going to catch eyes,” he said. “You are going to catch a lot of judgment.”
He next turned to vaping.
With vaping, most of the barriers to his using were gone. He could satisfy his cravings whenever he wanted. In class or at home, he felt he could hide it more easily.
At High Point Central, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years, he kept his vaping device up his sleeve, and put his head down on his desk to inhale, or go to the restroom to vape. He exhaled the vapor toward the ground or into the corner of a room or simply held it in.
He never got caught or in trouble, he said.
Lots of other people in his grade level were also vaping, or tolerated vaping, so he didn’t feel negatively judged like he did with smoking, and he could more easily get vaping supplies than cigarettes from other students. The vapor smelled better than cigarette smoke, and it tasted better. He vaped more and more.
As teen vaping has spiked, public health and education leaders, as well as addiction treatment specialists, have had to learn and compile accurate information quickly as they try to understand the phenomenon, as well as combat addiction and misinformation.
In March, at an e-cigarette information session for parents at Page High in Greensboro, Kimberly Fields, the substance abuse coordinator for Guilford County Schools, said she’s glad for the growing attention that vaping is receiving.
“This vaping thing is happening, it’s kind of taken over,” Fields said. “And I’m actually glad that it’s a topic that’s in the media because it was a topic that wasn’t for a while, that we kind of didn’t know about. And it just kind of exploded in our faces.”
E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-operated devices that create a mist of various elements and chemicals, typically including nicotine, that a user then inhales.
They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, some of which parents may mistake for school supplies, Fields said. She said that although some vaping liquids are nicotine-free, they make up a very small part of the market. And some of those have even been found to contain small amounts of the drug, she said.
For a long time, the devices had the reputation of something used more by adults than by teenagers. Now, youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes, the CDC said. They are the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students.
Some teens start with other tobacco products, like Kinard did, but some get their first nicotine from vaping. Some teen nicotine users just vape. Some just use traditional tobacco products. Some do both.
About 2 in 5 high school student tobacco users use more than one tobacco product, according to the CDC.
“Once you become addicted, you use the nicotine you can get,” said Levy, the Harvard addiction treatment program manager.
According to the CDC, the aerosol inhaled from e-cigarettes generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than regular cigarette smoke. While that means they are less harmful than cigarettes, by the CDC’s calculation, they’re not harmless. Traditional cigarette smoking kills about half of long-term smokers and causes 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S., the agency said.
And the CDC points out that e-cigarette mist can contain “harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents.”
Vaping is new enough that there is a lot scientists don’t know about its long-term effects.
Kinard gravitated toward a particular type of e-cigarette liquid: nicotine salt. Within a month or two of starting to use them, he was up to four “pods” of concentrated liquid a day, with each pod containing as much nicotine as a pack of traditional cigarettes. It felt more addictive, he said.
The first, and most common of the devices built around nicotine salt, is Juul. Mass-market vapes have been in the U.S. for roughly 10 years, but Juul debuted in 2015. Now, more brands, like Suorin and Phix, also make e-cigarettes built specifically for nicotine salts.
When heated, the nicotine-salt solution creates an inhalable mist that can hold more nicotine per volume without the normal increase in throat irritation, according to a variety of vaping hobby publications. So devices made specifically for nicotine salts are often smaller and easier to conceal than a big vape that’s built to hold a lot of liquid.
Traditional “freebase” vaping liquid delivers a slower, smaller nicotine dose than cigarettes. Nicotine salt liquid appears to deliver a bigger punch, with a quicker spike, getting closer to the experience of a cigarette user, Fields said. That’s been a selling point for Juul.
Levy said she suspects that some teenagers are figuring out ways to inhale from these devices that are allowing them to absorb far more nicotine than what a cigarette user would get.
Her evidence is anecdotal from her program, which treats addiction to a wide variety of drugs.
Until recently, she only had one instance she remembers of a teenager seeking treatment for solely a cigarette addiction. Nicotine-only users just weren’t seeking her program’s help. Within the last year, however, some families have been showing up with teenagers addicted to just Juul. She has been quoted in national news pieces, and that has brought further influxes of patients.
“When these Juuls first came out, I think, like the rest of the world, we thought the impact would be similar to cigarettes, without the smoke,” she said. “We’ve started to understand that some kids are getting much, much higher doses from this.”
Levy said some of the teens talk about using inhalation tricks to get more nicotine into their systems. They report feeling buzzed and dizzy, like they stood up too quickly, and also talk about having stomach pains and sometimes vomiting. She said someone else told her separately that at parties at that person’s college, it’s more commonly assumed that a partygoer who is throwing up is “nic sick” rather than have drunk too much alcohol.
Some teenagers she works with also say they are struggling to focus or sit still. They stress these are not symptoms they had before they began vaping. And they see themselves as having a problem.
“They are telling us they are not doing well in school; they are feeling off,” Levy said. “Their whole school years were disrupted by this behavior.”
Looking back, Kinard said he believes his increased nicotine use from vaping and the cravings that went with it led to changes in his moods and habits. He began holing up in his room more often and becoming more irritable. His grades started dropping around second semester of freshman year.
“That was when I was like: ‘This is a problem,’ ” he said. “But I just didn’t really want to admit it to people.”
His parents weren’t oblivious to his nicotine use.
Early on, they confronted him every time he came home smelling like tobacco, Kelly Kinard said.
“When he started vaping, I wasn’t all that concerned, because like everyone else in the country, I had heard that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking,” she said. “And I thought we could use it to wean him off the nicotine.”
Later, she said, she figured out that he was addicted to Juul. She kept finding evidence of it in his room and discovered that he had been deceiving them to get money to buy more.
“Once we found out he was spending money that we gave him on nicotine products, we stopped giving him money to go out,” she said. “That’s when he started selling his belongings.”
Kinard sometimes got vaping supplies from other students, but he also often shopped at stores.
“I look older,” he said, explaining that he had success getting them at smaller convenience stores and gas stations.
For a few months last summer, Kinard was taking the prescription medication Wellbutrin, an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid, but Kelly Kinard said she soon realized her son lacked the will and maturity to quit. It wasn’t working.
“We’d been battling his Juul addiction for months,” Kelly Kinard said. “And you know not only were we sending him to a counselor, we were also doing family counseling ... and you know, a lot of punishment.
“We tried bribing. We tried everything. And it became clear that the addiction was out of his control. And then last fall, he had a grand mal seizure after Juuling.”
Marina Picciotto, a Yale psychiatry professor and nicotine expert, said she doesn’t find it at all surprising that someone vaping the equivalent of 80 cigarettes a day would have such symptoms as chest pains, cold sweats, irritability and a seizure.
But Picciotto also said most nicotine addicts don’t consume it at those levels.
“I think it’s very rare and a huge outlier,” she said, for people to vape four pods a day, like Luka Kinard did. However, Kinard said he knows some other teenagers who did or do vape that much.
With cigarette smokers, Picciotto said, there are some unusual cases of people who smoke four packs a day, but those are typically situations where the person has developed a very high nicotine tolerance over many years.
She theorized that because nicotine from vaping takes longer to get to the brain then it does from smoking, that could contribute to someone who is vaping continuing take in nicotine past what they need to satisfy their cravings. It would be like a person continuing to eat because they don’t realize they are full.
Being young, Picciotto said, could be another contributing factor.
“The teenage brain may not get the stop signals,” she said. “The adolescent brain is not very good at stopping. When you feel something is good, you just keep after it.”
Kinard’s seizure in September 2018 forced his family’s crisis to a head.
After a trip to the ER, his mother said, they followed up with a pediatrician, neurologist and cardiologist.
“Some of them had never even heard of Juuling,” she said. “Which was frustrating. ... So I started doing internet research.”
Based on her research, Kinard became convinced that her then-15-year-old son’s nicotine use needed to be treated like any other substance abuse problem. When she explained to the insurance company about his symptoms, behavior and seizure, the company agreed.
Her search for an adolescent-only treatment center that would best fit his needs led her to the center in California.
But Kinard did not take his parents’ ultimatum that he go to rehab well. It was right around Halloween, and he had just bought new vapes that he was eager to use.
“I was mad,” he said. “I was really mad.”
“That’s an understatement,” Kelly Kinard said and laughed. “He didn’t go willingly.”
She and Luka’s father told him rehab would be only eight days, when they knew it would be at least 30. She said she also threatened to call the police and have them drive him to the airport to get him to go.
In rehab, all the other teenagers there had used nicotine, but none were there just for nicotine use like Kinard was. They had added on other drugs and other addictions.
Kinard said his nicotine use led him to experiment with alcohol and marijuana, but those hadn’t taken over his life the way the nicotine did.
In rehab, there was no choice but to go 100% cold turkey. No drugs — and no way to get them — and no cellphones.
And there was no way out, save participating in the activities, doing the work and coming to grips with what it meant to live drug-free. He also had to learn to use other methods to deal with feelings and problems. He craved nicotine, but there was just nothing to do about it, other than tell the counselors how he felt.
“You kind of have to sit with it,” he said. “Just learn to sit in your own skin, or accept it.”
Kinard came home to a “pretty interesting” Christmas. Interesting in a good way. The most satisfying he’d had in a long time. Not like rehab.
“I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I’m not having to go ask to use the bathroom anymore,’” he said. “I don’t have a roommate.”
Kelly Kinard said at first she worried her son might use nicotine again. She was afraid to let him be around his friends, for fear that would make him want to vape.
But each drug test they gave him came back nicotine-free, and Kinard continued with counseling. As she noticed him becoming more honest with her and more committed to continuing not to vape, she realized she could allow her son to see friends and live life. Bit by bit, the family was able to build trust again.
“Recovery is a long process; just quitting isn’t enough,” she said. “You have to let the brain recover.”
During the time Kinard had been in rehab, his mother had been talking to a reporter with The Wall Street Journal.
She had contacted the reporter on a whim, with some thoughts on a previous article about vaping the reporter had written. As it turned out, the reporter was interested in talking to Kinard about her experiences with seeking rehab for her son.
When her son found out about the article, he felt that he should speak to the reporter too, she said.
After that Wall Street Journal article was published, other people began to seek out the teen and his mother. He was interviewed by NBC News and featured on “Good Morning America.”
Kelly Kinard said parents started calling her, asking for help dealing with their child’s vaping addiction or asking for advice on how to get their insurance company to pay for treatment.
She is now working with an organization called Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes. PAVE has been referring parents who are struggling with their child’s vaping addiction to talk to her. She knows of lots of families dealing with children with vaping addictions, but not many who have broken their addictions.
“I feel very fortunate to be on the other side of the problem right now,” she said.
She and her son participated in a panel discussion on teenage vaping prevention at the Smoke Free South Carolina summit in late May. A month later, he spoke on a panel about quitting vaping in Washington at an event sponsored by The Truth Initiative.
Shortly before the South Carolina summit, on May 15, Luka Kinard stood with N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein when Stein announced that he was suing Juul Labs over concerns about teenage users.
Stein is asking the courts to permanently keep Juul from selling flavors other than tobacco or menthol online to people in North Carolina. He is also seeking to have the courts prohibit Juul from sponsoring sports, entertainment or charity events held in North Carolina, putting up outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, and other restrictions on sales and marketing.
On its website, Juul Labs said it doesn’t “want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use Juul products.”
“We certainly don’t want youth using the product,” the company said. “It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission.”
The company said it stopped selling certain flavors in stores, enhanced online controls, dropped its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and made other changes as part of a 2018 action plan.
At this point, Juul holds nearly three-quarters of the e-cigarette market.
Kinard said he is not trying to tell any adult who is using vaping to quit cigarette smoking what to do, but he is convinced that what he sees as the harms of Juul and its competitors are outweighing any possible benefits across society as a whole.
“It’s just where our values lie: Are we going to have a future generation that’s addicted to nicotine?” he asked. “I think the best thing is to save the generation that’s at stake right now.”
Even more than participating in panels or supporting Stein’s lawsuit, Kinard is passionate about speaking to middle and high school students about his experiences. He enjoys public speaking and said he is building on skills he gained in middle school from Allen Jay Preparatory Academy and through Boy Scout national youth leadership training.
He has spoken on the topic at 10 schools in North Carolina and has plans for more, not only in this state but also South Carolina and even Montana.
Kinard said he knows the sense of guilt, shame and loneliness that can come from dealing with an addiction. He said he hopes students who are dealing with these issues will feel less alone when he speaks to them. And he wants to help students understand there are better places to look for relief and pleasure.
“There’s sports, there’s music, there’s food even,” he said. “Just things that you can get natural highs from that don’t harm you.”
He has faced challenges with school, including catching up academically for the time he missed while in rehab. But he’s excited about the work he’s doing in sharing his story. And he sees a stark distinction between when his life revolved around vaping and how it is today.
“It was man versus the world for me,” he said. “Whereas now I see so many positive things about the world. I’m just very happy to be here.”
If he was feeling the least bit of stress over moving his business, Steve Mosley sure wasn’t showing it.
He was surrounded by boxes of paperwork, tools and automotive diagnostic equipment he’ll need to re-launch Mosley’s Automotive Service.
A new name, new business plan and, most dauntingly, a new location a few miles from the loyal neighborhood customer base he’d spent years building would seem to be enough to wig out any small businessman already used to living on a thin margin.
Yet there he stood tending to a million details and not sweating a single one. Even the date, certain of (another) grand opening for a service station that’s moved at least twice before since Mosley first went into business in 1974.
“No sense in that,” Mosley said. “We’ve been on a month-to-month lease for two years. We’ve been looking for a good little while.”
On its face, the story behind Mosley’s move (and name change) is no different than thousands of others.
Small business owner, buffeted by forces mostly out of his control, has to adjust or die. Unfettered, pure capitalism — and the competition it breeds — is like that. And for the most part, it works.
Still, it doesn’t make things any easier for Mosley, his employees or his customers.
“I’ve been going there for years,” said Bebe Kern, a loyalist who took to social media to voice her support for Mosley and dismay at the move. “They’re honest and it’s a family, an authentic Winston-Salem neighborhood business.
“They do good work and charge honest prices. They’re just nice people.”
It shows in the seemingly small things Mosley, his son Steve Jr. and longtime employees have done as a matter of course.
Such details as filling gas tanks, checking the oil level or cleaning a windshield — a rare old-school, full-service island — go a long way. “Elderly people and the handicapped whose gas they pumped all those years,” Kern said. “It was just endearing.”
Reputations are built in such ways, one act at a time, day after day, year after year. “We just try and treat people the way we want to be treated, that’s all,” Mosley said.
As far as business plans go, that’s about as good as it gets.
Mosley opened his first service station and repair shop in the area not long after moving here from Mount Airy in the early ’70s.
In a typically understated way, he says going into this particular line of work was natural “because my daddy ran a repair and welding shop. I kind of grew up there.
“It seemed like that’s where the money was.”
The first iteration was an old Shell station across Reynolda Road where a bank now sits. He moved the business again before settling in with the Pure Station on the corner of Fairlawn and Reynolda.
News about an old business’s impending move spread in traditional and newer ways.
Customers found out a few weeks back by as they drove in for fill-ups and repairs. A temporary banner was hung as soon as the Mosleys settled on the new spot in Oldtown, and then folks took to the NextDoor thread — word of mouth one keystroke at a time.
“I would be sad if they were closing their doors forever!” wrote Ilene Brophy. “What’s the saying … ‘you can’t keep a good man down, you can only make him move! :) … Their honesty and work ethic is beyond reproach. Gotta tip your hat to the owner who sets the example.”
Ground hasn’t been broken yet and no “Coming Soon” signs are up at the old spot on Fairlawn, but odds are that a prime corner location won’t sit idle for long.
(The same word-of-mouth that lamented Pure’s move has it that some version of a quickie oil and lube is coming. It sounds kind of silly with two other similar auto businesses within a literal stone’s throw already at the same intersection, but what do I know?)
For now, though, the overarching concern for the last 10 days or so was getting everything cleaned up and moved down the road. By week’s end, every last scrap of paper and worn tire had been re-located.
Mosley said he’d hoped to be open by now, but that turned out to be a bit ambitious. “Maybe Monday,” he said. “We had a lot of equipment to move.”
Under the new Mosley Automotive Service sign — funny it took more than 40 years to finally call a family business by the family name — the look and feel will change.
They won’t pump or sell gas. “Too many regulations, and the credit-card processing fees are high,” Mosley said. “It’s just not profitable enough.”
Instead, they’ll focus on repair work — brake work, electrical system repair, and general maintenance. Big, labor-intensive, pain-in-the-rear jobs such as transmission and engine rebuilds will be non-starters, too.
In the end, the move amounts to a little guy evolving in an ever-changing business landscape. Change or die. It’s the American way.
Mosley, 67, has no plans to retire anytime soon. “When you’re self-employed, there is no retirement package,” he said. “I’ll be here ’til my toes turn up.”
His hope is to apply an old, tested formula — an honest job for a fair price — to keep the place humming for Steve Jr. and the next generation.
Some things never go out of style.