Virginia Tire & Auto LLC co-CEO Julie Holmes’ campaign to recruit more women to tire industry jobs is new. But the concept of populating tire dealerships with more female employees has been around for decades.
In 1983, Lori Mavrigian — then Lori Wiese, who eventually retired from MTD in January 2021 — wrote an article in MTD titled “Women Tire Dealers.”
The idea started with a note from a female tire dealer, Nancy Beaty, who at the time was the president and owner of Brothers Tire Co. Inc. in Dallas, Texas. Beaty wanted to know if there were others like her.
Lori took the question to MTD’s readers. Responses to her call came in quickly.
“Yes, Nancy Beaty, we are out here,” said Betty Wilson, owner of Wilson Garage & Tire Store in Roseland, Ind. “Never fear. You are not alone in the tire business.
“I manage a small store with three bays,” she continued. “We are very small, just started in March this year … but watch our dust!”
Sandie Crawford, co-owner of Economy Tire & Service in Elgin, Ill., called female tire dealers a “breed of our own” and compared being a female tire dealer to “breaking into the steelworkers union.”
Crawford continued by saying her knowledge of tires was her most useful selling tool. She used this to gain customers’ trust, but also noticed female customers were more difficult to sell to.
Crawford revealed that many women seemed “intimidated” by her “ability to comprehend tires and vehicles.”
Terry Hawthorne was part owner of Hawthorne Wholesale Tire in San Marcos, Calif. She said only one customer ever refused to buy tires from her because of her gender.
For most of her customers, buying tires from a woman wasn’t a big deal. However, this was not the case for her mother, who also ran a tire dealership.
“My mother, Rosemary Tucker, found herself as the owner and active runner of a flagging Tucker Tire Co. In 1960, service station owners she approached would not only hang up on her, but add a few colorful words, too.”
Ruth Halloway, president and general manager of Superior Tire & Rubber Inc. in Houston, Texas, which also owned a Bandag retread plant, said she was treated like “any other employee” by her customers.
She also served on Bandag’s advisory board.
“In the past, I was the only female on the board in (Bandag’s) South Central division. They always ask me to take the minutes in the meeting, but I feel that a male member can do secretary chores as good as or better than me. Therefore, I leave it to the males to get this done!”