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Through the ages with Reno Vulcanizing Works

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Through the ages with Reno Vulcanizing Works

Reno Vulcanizing Works has grown up with the automotive industry, and through its 90 years has survived the hard times of the Great Depression, rationing during World War I and WWII, the shock of 9/11 and much more.

The Reno, Nev., tire dealership is now run by brothers Steve and Mitch Besso, the grandsons of one of the founders. It has two locations in Reno and one in Sparks, Nev.  

Reno Vulcanizing Works was formed in 1920 when Italian immigrant Frank Menante bought half of a business that repaired bicycle tires and rubber-soled shoes, and had just begun to sell automobile tires.

Menante wanted to be a part of the fledgling auto industry. In 1922, he asked his friend, Augustino “Gus” Besso, to buy the other half of the business and the partnership was born. The company soon began emphasizing automobile tires.

When Frank and Gus retired in 1946, sons Ralph Menante and Leland “Lee” Besso took over. In 1954, they moved the dealership three blocks north to a new site — which they were told by several customers at the time was “too far out of town!” The dealership was one of the first buildings in that “remote” location, but the partners saw the city of Reno grow up around it.

Through the years the company sold passenger, light truck, medium truck, retreads and batteries and accessories. It distributed automotive parts and had a retread plant producing retreads by both hot cap and Oliver precure methods. The company got out of retreading 20 years ago.

In 1986, Lee Besso and Ralph Menante retired, handing the store over to their sons, Fran and Larry Menante and Steve and Mitch Besso.

After Larry Menante’s death and Fran Menante’s retirement after 35 years with the company, the dealership is now owned by the Bessos.

Steve Besso believes his company, now known as Reno Vulcanizing Auto Care and Tires, is “the oldest continuously owned Goodyear dealership in the country.” In addition to Goodyear tires, the company sells Kelly, Michelin, Cooper and many other brands of passenger and light truck tires and offers a full range of automotive services.

Reno Vulcanizing has seen competitors come and go over the last 90 years, the latest being the Internet. But Besso does not bemoan the new age competitor. When a customer buys tires online and brings them to Reno Vulcanizing for mounting and balancing, “Our ultimate goal is to turn them into our customers,” Besso says. “In most cases, their savings are not significant. They may save $30 to $40, but where do they go for service and a warranty? That’s a real issue most online buyers don’t think about when they buy tires from a faceless machine.”

The company’s secret to success is “honesty and integrity,” Besso notes. “Our main goal is to maintain and develop long-term relationships with our customers.

“The business model for a lot of companies these days is get as much as you can as fast as you can, irrespective of the customers’ needs. We have a different vision.

“We have 90 years of positive community involvement. When people come in here, they’re now dealing with the fourth generation of Besso.” Mitch’s son, Josh, works at the dealership. And Steve’s daughter, Steveelee, works there part-time during the summers.

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