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100 (or More!) Years Selling Tires

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100 (or More!) Years Selling Tires

Survive: 1. to live or exist longer than or beyond the life or existence of; 2. To continue living or existing, as after an event or after another’s death.

I wrote that in 1989 to lead off a story about Simon Tire, a Des Moines, Iowa, dealership that had been in business since 1914. The story never ran for some reason, but I thought it appropriate to resurrect the original Webster’s New College Dictionary definition (the edition I used in college!) for this story on the oldest independent tire dealers in the U.S. It is part of our year-long celebration of Modern Tire Dealer’s 100th anniversary. MTD, under the name Tires & Accessories, published its first issue in August 1919.

Ironically, Simon Tire did not survive, at least to 100. According to the Des Moines Register, the dealership “abruptly” closed its doors in 2013 after 99 years.

Free Service Tire Co. didn’t quite make it to 100, either. We were originally planning to include the Johnson City, Tenn.-based dealership in our 100th anniversary coverage.

However, Free Service Tire, owned by the Wexler family for 99 years, was sold to Monro Inc. in 2018, one year shy of its centennial.

That leaves Capital Tire Inc., Max Finkelstein Inc., Lewis General Tires Inc. and Ziegler Tire & Supply Co. as the only independent tire dealers celebrating their 100th anniversaries in 2019. And in their honor, we will feature one of them in each of our next four issues, starting with Capital Tire in September.

Oldest tire dealerships

When Edward Thomas Paul opened a tire shop next to his blacksmith shop in Columbus, Ohio, in 1896, the E.T. Paul Co. began a 119-year relationship with tires that seemed destined to last forever. It closed in 2014 only after the state of Ohio exercised its power of eminent domain to seize the property owned by the Paul family for more than a century.

To the best of our knowledge, no other tire store has been in business longer than 119 years. Philip Lebzelter & Son Co., which started in Lancaster, Pa., in 1854, didn’t start selling tires until 1900. At 115 years, it was the world’s oldest Goodyear tire dealership when Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc. purchased the three Lebzelter’s Total Car Care outlets in 2015.

Another longtime tire dealer, Straus-Frank Co. in San Antonio, had been in the transportation business since 1870. Records don’t show when tires were first sold by the company, but we know it was well before tires were advertised on the L. Frank Saddlery stationary in 1919. Straus-Frank eventually became a subsidiary of General Parts Inc., which was itself purchased by Advance Auto Parts Inc.

Minnesota’s Theis Bros. Tire Co., which opened in Minneapolis in 1918, closed two months ago after 101 years in business. Vice President Bob Theis, as reported in the Southwest Journal, said after his father died in 2018, he and his siblings decided to go their own ways.

There are many existing tire dealers in the U.S. that have been in business continuously for more than 100 years. The longest running is also the oldest family-owned tire dealership.

1. Wilder Brothers Tires Pros, 112 years. What started out as Bound Brook Garage in 1907 eventually became Wilder Brothers Tire after Glenn Wilder and his brothers took over the family business in 1960. The family has always known the importance of partnering with its suppliers. At one time the retail tire store was known as Wilder Brothers American Car Care Centers; now it is known as Wilder Brothers Tire Pros.

2. Northwestern Tire Co. Inc., 110 years. The Minneapolis-based dealership was established in 1909.

3. Huddles Inc., 110 years. Based in Lancaster, Ohio, Huddles also was established in 1909.

4. Liner Tire Inc., 109 years. Located in Brookline, Mass., Liner Tire, which opened in 1910, may be known more by its love of dogs — which includes mascots Brady Liner (2006-2015) and Baxter Liner — than owner Barry Liner.

5. Daniels Tire Service Inc., 108 years. The 15-location commercial, consumer and OTR tire dealership based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., opened in 1911. Check out our April 2015 story on Daniels Tire, written by the late Wayne Williams.

6. Hervey’s Tire Co. Inc., 107 years.  As its website says, the Hervey family started making and selling running boards of vulcanized rubber for horse-drawn carriages, and quickly moved to vulcanizing and selling tires and tubes. “We have been doing business at the same location in Rochester, N.H., since 1912, and as a result we have an impressive number of long-time customers who rely on us to maintain their vehicles.”

7. Harry’s Tire & Auto Service Centers, 106 years. Harry Chadwick opened Harry’s Tire & Supply Co. in 1913 in Auburn, N.Y. It eventually evolved into a wholesale business, which the Chadwick family sold to the Riester family in 1983.

8. Cassidy Tire & Service, 105 years. Established in Chicago in 2014, the fourth generation family business initially centered on renting hearses, livery wagons and horse teams. MTD chronicled the dealership’s 90th birthday in our December 2004 issue.

9. Mallory Kotzen Tire Co., 105 years. Based in Manhattan in 1914, the company moved to New Rochelle, N.Y., in 1947. It is now known as MK Discount Tire.

10. Ronda Auto Centers, 104 years. Established as Ronda Tire in 1915, the dealership is still located in Grand Rapids, Mich. A second location services customers in nearby Lowell, Mich.

11. Ben Fish Tire Co. Inc., 104 years. The dealership started in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1915.

12. Hogan Tire & Auto, 104 years. The third generation, eight-store family-owned business was started by Thomas E. Hogan in 1915.

13. A. Abramson Tire Co., 102 years. The wholesale tire dealer began operating in Philadelphia in 1917.

14. Leininger & Short Tire Service, 102 years. Based in Ontario, Calif., Leininger & Short is the second-oldest tire dealership in California, behind Daniels Tire.

15. Dave Stern Tire, 102 years. The dealership opened in Patterson, N.J., in 1917.

16. Clay Dooley Tire and Auto Service, 102 years. Founded in 1917, the Dooley family hasn’t run the dealership in Normal, Ill., since 1968. But Clay Dooley hired Vernon Troyer, whose family now owns the business.

17. Reis Tire Sales, 101 years. The retail and commercial dealership has been an Evansville, Ind., staple since 1918.

How old is Dealer Tire?

How old is Dealer Tire LLC? It all depends on your point of view.

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, the company says it has been owned and operated by the Mueller family since 1918.

Walter J. Mueller founded Mueller Tire in 1918, then passed it along to his son, Walter D. Mueller. In turn, Walter D.’s sons, Dean and Scott, eventually took over.

Mueller Tire and Brake LLC grew to be one of the largest independent tire dealers in Ohio with 19 retail stores. The Muellers sold those stores in 2002 to TBC Corp., but not before they created Dealer Tire, a forward-looking tire distributor that catered solely to car dealerships, in 1999.

As the Dealer Tire website says, “We grew up in retail tires and changed our course by taking a bet on a market opportunity.

“We focused all of our efforts on the growing needs of the automotive dealer channel — and evolved from a single store to an international distributor of tires and parts.”

Is that enough to make Dealer Tire a 101-year-old company? The Muellers think so.    ■

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Not so simple Simon Tire: Even adding cellular service couldn’t save the Des Moines business

Harry Simon started Chicago Metal & Rubber in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1914. The business included a junkyard in the back and a tire changer right on the street.

It changed a great deal over the years, eventually becoming Simon Tire & Auto Service, a full-service independent tire dealership, then Simon Tire & Cellular.

In 1989, Simon Tire bought out Butterworth Tire Co., becoming the last independent tire dealer in downtown Des Moines. After struggling in the 1980s, Butterworth Tire owner Dale Jackson, at 66, decided to sell to Harry Simon’s grandson, also named Harry. The two had been friendly competitors for years.

Jackson said the competition from Montgomery Ward, Sears, Western Auto, Kmart and Pace warehouse club had taken its toll. “Every one of them sells everything we sell,” he said at the time.

Simon Tire closed its doors after 99 years in business in 2013. But the location has since been taken over by Hilltop Tire Service. That keeps at least one independent dealer downtown.


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