Vernon "Pee Wee" Rhodes, founder of Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based Plaza Tire Service Inc., has been inducted into the Missouri Tire Industry Association's (MTIA) Hall of Fame.
"The MTIA's unanimous decision to include 'Pee Wee' among the group's most distinguished members was based on his contributions to the Missouri tire industry," say Plaza Tire officials.
Plaza Tire began in 1963 as a car wash. "Slow sales and lack of business on rainy days inspired the salesman in 'Pee Wee' to grow and transform the company into something larger. He did so by expanding his customer base to local car dealerships and finding ways to meet their demands for new tires.
"Soon after, Plaze Car Wash began selling tires to retail customers and installing them with a hand jack along the sidewalk." Eventually, Rhodes "chose to focus his business strictly on tire sales. The car wash was converted to a retail tire store in one weekend without losing a single day's work and was renamed Plaza Tire Service."
In ensuing years, Rhodes added wholesale routes, retail stores in outlying markets, tire protection plans and other items that enabled the company to develop into one of the largest independent tire store chains in the Midwest with 50 locations. (Plaza Tire is the 20th largest independent tire store chain in the U.S., according to the 2009 Modern Tire Dealer 100, which was published last month.)
Thirty-four Plaza Tire stores are located in Missouri. The rest are spread throughout Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Rhodes retired from the dealership's day-to-day operations in 2005. Plaza Tire is owned by his sons, Mark and Scott, who serve as its president and vice president, respectively.