February 18, 2003 11:00 pm

It's going to be a long commute for Mike Barber, who is selling the Tire Factory business he owns in Island City.

At the building at 10301 E. First St. for five years, he said, "By getting out now, I can pay all my bills. I haven't made a profit in four years. This seemed like the most prudent thing to do for my family."

He's going to Federal Way, Wash., where he has a larger tire business that opened in 1986. His family will remain in Union County, he said. And, no, he's not getting a divorce.

"This just seemed like a good time to get out of the tire business in Union County. The key factor was the coming of the Wal-Mart superstore," Barber said.

Wal-Mart has said it would open a superstore, which usually has such things as tires and groceries as well as other lines of merchandise.

Barber said his Island City store carries every major tire brand except those sold by Les Schwab. Commercial Tire in La Grande will honor warranties of any customers who have problems, Barber said.

He is selling the mechanical aspects of his business to employee Mike McCall, Barber said. The repair shop has five repair bays.

Of the six workers there now, including himself, Barber said only two would remain, McCall and one other. McCall will lease the building from Barber.

Barber is trying to liquidate all of his tire inventory at reduced prices.