Bruce Halle, the founder and chairman of Discount Tire and America's Tire, the nation's largest independent tire dealer, died on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. He was 87.
The company announced Halle's death in an e-mail signed by Michael Zuieback, the CEO of Discount Tire. Halle died in his sleep.
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that today, our friend, founder and a passionate family member, Mr. Halle, has passed away,” wrote Zuieback. “I have had the privilege of working with and learning from the most talented, respected, humble and kind leader anyone could hope for, and I speak on behalf of all who knew Bruce in that he will be dearly missed.”
Halle learned the definition of hard work at an early age, and helped deliver newspapers, cut grass and dug graves to help support his family during the Great Depression. He joined the Marines and was proud of his service during the Korean War.
He opened the first Discount Tire store in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1960 with six tires and no business plan. At the time, Halle served as the tire technician, accountant, sign painter, toilet cleaner, customer service representative and any other position needed to grow the fledgling business.
He established a simple business ethos: treat others how you want to be treated, always give the customer a good deal; surprise the customer with unexpected benefits like clean bathrooms, free snow tire changes or free flat repairs; build your customer base through word of mouth; and have fun.
Those directives helped him build the largest and most recognized tire store in the country. In 2018, Reinalt-Thomas Corp., which dba Discount Tire and America's Tire, will eclipse 1,000 stores in 34 states.
A humble man, Halle shied away from industry recognition, but in 2014 he was named Tire Dealer of the Year by Modern Tire Dealer. Even in that honor, he gave the credit for the company's ongoing success to his employees and the long-term leadership expertise and experience of his team, whom he considered family.
The Bruce T. Halle Library on his alma mater campus at Eastern Michigan University is named after him. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Eastern Michigan University and delivered the university’s commencement speech in 1995. A deeply spiritual man, Halle and wife Diane traveled to the Vatican and were knighted with the Order of St. Gregory for their contribution to chapel repairs.
Over his lifetime, Halle amassed an unprecedented art collection of more than 400 tire-related lithographs, which are curated and on display at company headquarters. Discount Tire holds the Guinness World Record for longest running advertisement, consistently airing since 1975.
Giving back to the communities where customers and employees reside was a focal point of Halle’s leadership. He and his wife launched The Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation, a philanthropic resource for a broad range of charitable endeavors. Halle also created programs to benefit Discount Tire employees such as the Bruce T. Halle Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to employees in need, as well as the Bruce T. Halle Scholarship Program, which has awarded over 2,700 scholarships for employees’ children to attend college.
“His absence creates a tremendous loss for all of us, but in his honor, Discount Tire will continue on the course that Bruce has set for us,” said Vice Chairman Gary Van Brunt. “The five lessons that Mr. Halle taught us will forever resonate in our hearts and minds: Be honest, work hard, have fun, be grateful and pay it forward.”
Halle is survived by his wife, his loving children Bruce Halle Jr. (Nikki), Susan Lyle (Wilson), Lisa Pedersen (Chris) and Michael Zuieback (Sheila); siblings Bob Halle (Nancy), Mary Ellen Merrill and Betty Lou Halle; and seven grandchildren.