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MTD’s Dealer of the Year: Raynal Pearson Is Quiet Empire-Builder

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MTD’s Dealer of the Year: Raynal Pearson Is Quiet Empire-Builder

If you were to choose a typical Utahan, his name might well be Raynal Pearson. This quiet, unassuming man somehow reflects the directness, honesty and simplicity of the state.

The rugged beauty of Utah inspired Brigham Young to halt the westward trek of his early Mormon followers and declare that “This is the Place” to settle, worship and build their lives.

And Utah is still a place where hard work is revered. It’s where honesty is taken for granted. It is also where people still appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, but realize foresight and persistence are necessary to cope with the sometimes harsh whims of Mother Nature.

Pearson fits ideally into this environment.

He was born there – 72 years ago – on a 300-acre ranch near the town of Marysvale in the south central part of the state.

He learned early the value of hard work and sharing and religious faith. These are the simple virtues on which he has based his life.

And he has quietly prospered in Utah, a place where honest persistence is more important than gimmicks and flamboyance in getting ahead.

In 45 years his Pearson Tire Co., which began as an outgrowth of a new car agency, has blossomed into the dealership with Utah’s largest state-wide tire inventory.

It has six company-owned retail stores and four wholesale warehouses supplying more than 300 dealers –about 70 of them associate dealers who take part in the entire Pearson Tire program.

Its wholesale deliveries stretch across the state line to dealers in southwestern Wyoming, southern Idaho, northern Arizona and to southeastern Nevada, currently an area of rapid growth.

As Pearson Tire has grown, so has respect for Raynal Pearson among customers, dealers, suppliers and leaders in his church and community.

He also earned the high regard of our three independent judges who named Raynal Pearson Modern Tire Dealer magazine’s Tire Dealer of the Year for 1999.

From a humble beginning, Pearson has created a business that will exceed $7 million in sales this year with a conservative policy of building slowly, of bringing big city service to small town tire dealers, and of always “being there” when they have a need.

About two-thirds of dealership profits come from tire sales, one-third from service. Company stores have from three to a dozen service bays where brake, shock, muffler, alignment and tire rotation are performed.

“Raynal is an icon in these parts,” says Steve Affleck of the Supreme Co., one of his suppliers. “His hand-shake is as good as a contract.”

“He’s a gentleman and one of our most loyal dealers,” says Bill Hoban, regional sales manager for Cooper Tire, supplier of the dealership’s major tire brand. “If he gives you a verbal order for tires, you can count on it.”

Pearson learned about reliability as a youngster working on the family ranch.

He also learned about profit-sharing there from his father, John, who gave him a percentage of the profits earned when the sheep he herded were sheared.

The ranch also raised alfalfa, wheat and barley as well as cattle.

In later years, Pearson has carried over the profit-sharing idea into his business, putting more than 50% of the earnings from his dealership’s company-owned stores into bonuses for store managers and retirement accounts for employees.

Raynal was in his teens when his father’s illness forced the Pearsons to move into Richfield, Utah, a town of 8,000 which later became Raynal’s business base.

There, Pearson played basketball on a high school team that went to the state finals in his senior year.

Following high school graduation in 1945, Pearson went off to college, earning a degree in finance and banking from Brigham Young University.

At BYU he met Maridell Lewis of Mesa, Ariz., now his wife of 48 years.

Next came a stint in the Air Force during the Korean War where Pearson, long an active member of the LDS – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) –became a Protestant chaplain.

He counselled recruits at bases such as Clark Air Force Base in California, dealing with the emotional problems of young men, many of whom were away from home for the first time.

He also preached at Sunday morning services. His messages encouraged respect for all faiths and stressed the importance of performing your assigned duties with honor. These are beliefs he quietly promotes to this day in his work and in his church.

Pearson makes a point of meeting privately with each of Pearson Tire’s 50-plus employees at least once a year, as much to listen to their ideas as to impart some of his own.

Topics discussed are strictly private and employees are encouraged to talk with no fear of reprisal. Pearson says many improvements in the business have grown out of these discussions.

Pearson also uses an internal publication called the Do It newsletter to communicate with the company’s far-flung stores.

It provides information on topics such as news about the dealership, discussion of service practices and marketing advice.

After his discharge from the service, Pearson worked for two years for the church in the mission field a requirements for young Mormons.

He was assigned to the Northwest spending most of his time in Eugene and Silverton, Ore., and some of it in the Kirkland, Wash., area.

During this time he went door-to-door discussion the beliefs and mission of the church and answering questions about his faith. Purpose of such visits is not to recruit members, but to promote understanding of Mormonism.

It also provided Pearson with the opportunity to learn a lot about people. His people skills are evident in his business and community life.

By 1953, Pearson had returned to Richfield, hoping to start a business for himself.

With financial help from his father and brother, Marden, he bought a struggling Buick auto dealership in town.

When he learned a number of his customers were unhappy with the quality of the original equipment tires on the new cars, Pearson began replacing the OE tires with those of better quality.

Within a couple of years, he became more interested in selling tires than cars. So he sold the auto business, moved to a new location in town and Pearson Tire was born.

At first he sold Armstrong and Hood tires and began a retreading business with used molds he managed to purchase. Though the dealership sold and retreaded some medium truck tires, most of its business was in passenger and light truck units.

However, toady Pearson Tire’s major brand is Cooper. In fact the dealership has made Cooper tires a major brand throughout the state.

Not long after opening the tire store, Pearson branched out into the oil business, founding Sevier Valley Oil Co. in partnership with two brothers, Marden and Dwain.

Sevier Valley Oil delivered oil and gasoline in bulk throughout the area and operated two service stations, one a 24-hour truck stop.

Though the service stations have been sold, Raynal’s son Rodney still operates the oil business which distributes the product throughout much of the state.

The tire store in Richfield prospered from the beginning and is still the flagship outer of the dealership. It’s run by Raynal’s son Larry, now a partner in the business.

In July, the store’s best month ever, the outlet and warehouse these completed some 270,000 transactions.

By the mid-1960s Pearson decided to open a second store in Salt Lake City some two hours driving time north of Richfield. Today, 95% of its business is wholesale and only 5% is retail sales.

At about the time Pearson Tire expanded to Salt Lake City, it took on Seiberling tires, a brand it sold for many years. Armstrong passenger tires were phased out, but the dealership continued to sell Armstrong agricultural tires.

Three years after the Salt Lake City move, the dealership opened a third store in Provo about 45 miles south of Salt Lake.

Later came stores in St. George-nearly 300 miles south of Salt Lake –and in Ephriam, Ogden, Orem and Beaver, Utah.

The Orem and Ogden stores were later sold to Discount Tire of Arizona when it moved into the state.

Today Pearson Tire’s six retail stores are spread along Utah’s populated corridor paralleling 1-15 running north to south through the state.

The dealership maintains warehouses in Salt Lake City, Ephriam, Richfield and St. George delivering tires from several times a day to once a week, depending on need and competition.

Hottest growth area today is in the Mesquite, Nev., area across the state line from St. George which is benefiting from the explosive growth in Las Vegas an hour or so to the west.

The 70 associate dealers among Pearson’s wholesale customers get comprehensive service.

It includes a better buying price, co-op advertising in print and on radio and the chance to participate in the dealership’s road hazard warranty and credit card programs. Associate dealers also can get delivery of other products such as Exide batteries and Wheel City and American Racing wheels.

Since Pearson decided to take on Cooper tires in 1978, he has promoted the brand heavily.

In its ads and sales rooms, Pearson Tire now compares Cooper to other “major brand” tires and offers to refund 200% of the difference if a customer finds a comparable name brand tire at a cheaper price.

Road King is Pearson’s private label tire. Is principal farm tire line is BF Goodrich, but the dealership also sells Galaxy and Titan products.

Off-the-road tires—mostly mining, grader and backhoe units –include Michelins, Galaxys and Firestones.

Some Yokohama and Goodyear tires are also purchased direct and the dealership sells Kumho medium truck tires.

Performance tires are not big sellers in rural Utah, but Pearson Tire is ordering the Pirelli brand now being distributed by Cooper especially for the Nevada market.

Besides his tire business, Pearson has engaged in other business enterprises over the years, a number involving his children.

He and Maridell have three sons and two daughters and 18 grandchildren.

Son Larry rejoined the tire dealership in 1992. He worked at the Richfield store during his high school days, but later spent nine years in Los Angeles where he and his sister, Marie, wrote, performed and recorded pop music.

Pearson and two partners also founded a bank in Richfield in 1992 and put up a new building to house it. The bank, Valley Central Bank, was sold to Bank One in the late 1980s.

Pearson and family members also own a Quality Inn motel next to the Pearson Tire store in Richfield and another in Prove were they also lease out a restaurant on property they own next door.

When he’s not involved in business activities, Pearson lives a quiet life in Orem, Utah, with his wife and Buddy Boy, a talented springer spaniel who bows his head for grace before meals, brings in the newspaper and shakes hands—right-or left-“handed” or with both paws on command. He has also mastered more than 30 other tricks.

Over the years Maridell has been active in dramatic productions and children’s performances in the LDS church.

Pearson is still very much involved in the tire business—quietly as always.

Lew Hooker, a 14-year employee of Pearson Tire, who manages the Salt Lake City store, says he has never heard Pearson raise his voice.

But he is a persistent employer nonetheless, insisting Pearson Tire sales reps keep calling on potential wholesale dealer/customers, even those who at first say “no.”

Another worthy winner

As Modern Tire Dealer magazine’s seventh Tire Dealer of the Year, Raynal Pearson, president of Pearson Tire, will receive an etched glass plaque commemorating the honor and $1,000 to be contributed in his name to the charitable, community or educational institution of his choice.

Co-sponsor of the award is Michelin North America Inc.

The Dealer of the Year is selected from among nominated candidates by three independent judges. They are:

  • Anne Evans, a former tire dealer and president of Tyres 2000, a tire importer/exporter.
  • Saul Ludwig, a managing director of McDonald Investments Inc. in Cleveland, and a highly respected tire industry analyst.
  • Richard Morgan, a business consultant and president of Morgan Marketing Solutions.
  • MTD also thanks Cooper Tire & Rubber and Michelin Agricultural Tires for their support of our 1999 Dealer of the Year.
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