Longtime Direct Tire Owner Barry Steinberg Dies

April 28, 2021

Barry Steinberg, longtime owner of Watertown, Mass.-based Direct Tire & Auto Service and Modern Tire Dealer’s first Tire Dealer of the Year Award recipient, has died. He was 75 years old.

Steinberg was born to Pearl and Meyer Steinberg of Port Chester, N.Y. in 1945. 

After serving in the U.S. Army in Thailand during the Vietnam conflict, he partnered with his friend, Albee Stone, to open Direct Tire in 1974 and went on to single handedly build one of the most well-known and successful independent tire dealerships in the New England area, eventually expanding the business to five locations.

A master marketer, “Barry's clever marketing phrases, ‘We'll Fix It So It Brakes’ and ‘We'll Brake, Shock & Exhaust You’ became hallmarks on billboards,” according to his obituary in the Boston Globe. “Anyone listening to the radio in Boston was familiar with Barry's trademark voice touting ads for ‘Dye-Rect Tire.’

In 1993, in recognition of his outstanding business success, community involvement and other contributions, Steinberg was named MTD’s first Tire Dealer of the Year. 

Steinberg participated in a state-sponsored work-release program, providing employment for prisoners who were preparing to rejoin the workforce. “He was a strong believer in mentoring and training young men and women, folding them into his Direct Tire family, which earned him fierce loyalty over four decades. Many of his friends' kids got their first job at Direct Tire, including his own three sons. 

“Support for the community was also close to Barry's heart. He spearheaded charitable drives for the Boston Food Bank, the Jimmy Fund (and) Boston Children's Hospital, as well as Watertown High Robotics Team and Peabody Little League. 

“Barry was a well-known fixture in the Boston area, rarely going out on the town without running into a customer or friend. Barry was the person you called when you were in a jam or just needed advice. 

“He was a hero to his four kids, and it wasn't just because he doled out free ski lift and concert tickets. He always put everyone else's needs before his own. 

“Barry had a great sense of humor and even as a child, he loved entertaining people and making them laugh. He was always a gentleman and positive role model.”

“I am very saddened to hear of Barry’s passing,” says MTD Publisher Greg Smith. “Barry was a tire dealer’s tire dealer and the epitome of what makes independent tire dealers great. He always wanted to help other tire dealers and was always available to MTD’s editors, sharing his unique insight and experience.

“I will always consider Barry’s designation as MTD’s first Tire Dealer of the Year Award recipient to be a tremendous honor and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and business associates.”

“Barry was a good friend to Modern Tire Dealer,” says Bob Ulrich, former MTD editor. “He was highly quotable because he was both a marketing whiz and a visionary. 

“There was a reason he was MTD’s first Tire Dealer of the Year in 1993! He came up with the lifetime warranty on Toyo tires and if you heard about new technology that could help sell tires and service, he was already using it.

“But he was also a good friend to me - helping me learn the industry, making my stories better and treating me like royalty when I would come to visit him,” says Ulrich. “We talked about life almost as much as we talked about business.”

Steinberg is survived by his wife of 41 years, Penny; children Jason, Matthew, Dan and Sara; grandchildren Miranda, Gabriel, Isabella, Claire, Noah and Logan; and others.

Graveside service and burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Barry’s memory may be made to Care Dimensions Hospice or Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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