Dont underestimate this over-achiever: From pilot and flight instructor to tire dealer and fishing tournament judge, Malerba has led a colorful, productive life. His experiences will serve him we

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Dont underestimate this over-achiever: From pilot and flight instructor to tire dealer and fishing tournament judge, Malerba has led a colorful, productive life. His experiences will serve him we

The people who know him best say this is an ideal time for Bob Malerba to be taking over as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA).

Malerba, who will take the gavel from outgoing President Dick Gust at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show this month in Las Vegas, has spent most of his life in the tire industry. He began as a youngster working for his father, G. William Malerba, at Malerba's Silver City Tire Co. in Meriden, Conn.

In 1984, he purchased the dealership and eventually expanded it into Malerba's Tyre Man, a three-outlet retreading and commercial tire business that he sold last year. Malerba is now vice president of operations for the purchaser, Berlin Bandag Inc.

Malerba has spent 25 years as a national tire association board member under three different banners. First he was on the board of the old National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association (NTDRA). Then he served the Tire Association of North America (TANA), where he was the first president ever to be elected by members of the board. Most recently, of course, there has been TIA.

For 22 years he also has been president of the Connecticut Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. (To avoid any possible conflict of interest, Malerba resigned his membership in both the Connecticut and New England tire dealers' associations before taking office.)

Malerba, who will be 59 this month, is a thorough, methodical, diplomatic builder of consensus among association groups, as is indicated by his service on the three different national boards. He is an over-achiever who operates "by the book," a throwback to his days in the Air Force when he trained pilots during the Vietnam War.

Malerba has been exceptionally active as a TIA board member while rising through the chairs to the presidency. So he has a thorough understanding of the issues TIA will be facing during his year in office.

And since he has maintained a non-controversial, let's-talk-about-it stance on these issues in the past, he leaves the door open for negotiations with other groups, some of them at odds with TIA's views. This includes a cordial relationship with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which has sometimes had differences with tire dealer associations in the past.

Malerba has pledged to devote "whatever amount of time it takes" to his duties as TIA president. He says he'll speak whenever and wherever he's asked, not just to lecture on TIA and its programs, but also to discuss specific issues and listen to the wishes and ideas of tire dealers and state associations.

Since he sold the business to his long-time friend Bob Berlin last year, Malerba will have time to fulfill that promise. Though still a vice president of Berlin Bandag, Malerba no longer must deal with some of the pressing day-to-day responsibilities of an owner. And Berlin has agreed to give him all the time he needs to carry out his TIA duties.

If his personal history is any indication, Malerba will be more than able to live up to his new responsibilities.

The family business got started in 1939 when Malerba's father bought a delivery service in Meriden, Conn., naming it Meriden Parcel Gift Delivery. Realizing there was a need for truck maintenance in the area, he soon opened Malerba's Service Depot as a gas station.

As the business grew and expanded its scope of operations, it became Malerba's Silver City Tire Co., a title acknowledging Meriden's claim to fame as the town where sterling silver pitchers, silverware and other household products were produced.

In his high school and college years, Bob Malerba worked in the dealership's retread shop doing whatever needed to be done.

When he graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1970, he was second in his class academically. That's also the place where he met his wife, Kitty. (This is the same university, incidentally, attended by Roy Littlefield, TIA's executive vice president.)

To attend college, Malerba was given an exemption from the Vietnam War draft, but on graduation he enlisted in the Air Force, took pilot training and became a strato-tanker pilot, using the four-engine Boeing 707 to refuel other aircraft in flight.

He spent more than 3,000 hours as a flight instructor and eventually trained other pilots to become flight instructors. He also wrote a co-pilot evaluation test for the Strategic Air Command.

Malerba was one of only 12 pilots nominated to help develop a central flight instructor course. By the time he left the Air Force in 1979, he also had served three tours of duty in Vietnam.

When he returned to Connecticut, Malerba rejoined his father in the business. By then, his father was winding down toward retirement and selling off some parts of the business. He disposed of the retail end of the Meriden business in 1981.

When his father decided to retire completely in 1984, Bob Malerba purchased the business.

Bob Malerba, the over-achiever, set some ambitious goals for his business. He vowed to triple both the retread business and the overall volume of sales. In 1994 he bought the Tyre Man store in Manchester, Conn. He expanded to a third location in Plainfield, Conn., in 1999.

He used the Tyre Man name at all three locations, while retaining the Silver City title in Meriden, and adopted "Lumpy the Tyre Man" as the dealership's advertising mascot. The Plainfield location was a commercial service center. The Manchester outlet was largely a commercial location with some retail passenger and light truck business. The Meriden retread shop also served as a commercial tire outlet.

Malerba's growth dreams more than came true. When the business was sold to Bob Berlin last year, sales had zoomed from about $400,000 to nearly $4 million.

Even so, Malerba considered his business too small to prosper in the long term against larger competitors. He wanted to avoid being "swallowed up" as he had seen happen to others.

He was thinking of seeking a large, qualified purchaser when fate intervened. Berlin, a long-time friend who was a regional vice president for Michelin North America Inc.-owned Tire Centers LLC (TCI), mentioned to Malerba that he'd like to strike out on his own.

Malerba was delighted. He wanted to sell to someone he knew and trusted. But he also wanted to do "the right thing."

So he called in the managers and top executives of Malerba's Tyre Man, including his son, Jeff, and offered each the opportunity to buy the company. When all declined, the deal went through and Malerba agreed to stay on for four years as vice president of operations.

The transition has gone smoothly. The store managers, son Jeff and the other key people remained with the new owner. Jeff is now a salesman and assistant manager at Berlin Bandag's South Windsor, Conn., location.

In addition to South Windsor, Berlin Bandag has added a second location in Meriden -- a warehouse, office and service center -- and an outlet in Shrewsbury, Mass.

Besides his business success over the years, Malerba has earned many awards, both in the tire industry and for community service. Some of them include the University of Connecticut Small Business Award, the President's Award from the New England tire dealers, the Bandag Financial Award and the Hall of Fame Award from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Meriden. He also has received the Faith in Meredin Award three times for his business activities in his hometown.

And, oh yes, in all his spare time, Malerba is a "certified observer" (judge) for the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). He recently returned from duties at an IGFA marlin tournament in the waters off Puerto Rico where, believe or not, he signed up three new TIA members!

He's had lots of awards and accolades, but last year, Malerba's son, Jeff, gave the family the best gift of all. He donated a kidney to his mother, Kitty, Malerba's wife of 35 years.

The surgery went well and both are fine.

So now Bob Malerba begins a new chapter in his colorful and active life. It's little wonder that those who know him figure he's well qualified to handle the job.

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