Tire Dealers of the Year give back: Each donates time, money to worthwhile causes

Nov. 1, 2006

Generosity! It's a trait shared by every one of the people chosen as Tire Dealer of the Year since the Modern Tire Dealer award began in 1993. These dealers, nominated for the honor by their peers, have used different business strategies, operated in totally different markets and faced various types of competition. But without exception they have believed in "giving back" to the employers and communities that have contributed to their success.

For example, from almost the first day he started business, Les Schwab has shared profits, now totaling more than 51%, before taxes, with his employees.

That generosity has created literally hundreds of millionaires among managers and top executives of Schwab's outlets that total more than 400 today, including member-dealer outlets.

New employees are told if they work hard and earn the chance to manage a large tire store, they'll make a six-figure salary and retire a millionaire. The Schwab retirement trust fund has hundreds of million dollars in resources.

In addition, the dealership distributes tens of millions of dollars in annual bonuses and dividends to Schwab Tire's 7,500 employees. And the company-paid health benefits have literally been life savers for a number of people.

No one at Schwab has ever said much about charitable donations to the community, but the emergency room wing of Memorial Hospital in Prineville, Ore., home of Schwab headquarters, is named in Les Schwab's honor.

Though at 89 Les Schwab is no longer active in day-to-day operations, Schwab Chairman Phil Wick carries on these traditions.


Eighty two-year-old Paul Zurcher shares Zurcher Tire Inc.'s success in a different way.

He has created partnerships with the more than 250 operators of Best-One Tire and Service stores, giving greater opportunities to deserving partners who are free to run their outlets as they see fit.

Depending on circumstances, Zurcher's share of these tire stores varies. The local Best-One partners operate under a variety of store names and set their own prices.

The stores benefit from Best-One's good reputation and Paul Zurcher's encouragement and advice when needed, as well as his financial means to help them get started.

Best-One partners see Zurcher as almost a father figure whose interest in their success goes far beyond interest in the financial returns they provide him. Only Zurcher Tire headquarters and the tire store in Monroe, Ind., are wholly-owned by the family. Zurcher has two sons and three grandchildren involved in the business.

Zurcher, a deeply religious man, is also very active in the community. Among many charitable activities, he has been a major contributor to Taylor University in Upland, Ind., where he helped raise $75 million in a capital fund drive.

Tony Troilo, of Rosson & Troilo Motor Co., one of the smaller honored dealerships, takes a very personal approach to generosity in his small headquarters town of Brandy Station, Va.

In 2004, on the 79th anniversary of founding of the dealership, Troilo provided the seed money to help organize a local Soap Box Derby in nearby Culpeper, Va., now an annual event.

This year, 104 youngsters from the area raced their home-built cars down the hill, sending their local champion to the national Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.


Now more than 100 businesses and individuals contribute to derby expenses, and 1,000 people attend the local races. The Culpeper event is the fourth largest derby in the world. The event energizes the whole community, and Troilo says not a day goes by when someone doesn't mention the derby to him.

His employees also benefit from a generous retirement and health insurance program.

Troilo's many other contributions to the community have included work as a volunteer fireman.

The late Walt Dealtrey, founder of Service Tire Truck Centers in Bethlehem, Pa., was revered by both his employees and his community.

In 1980, when he sold off his five retail stores to concentrate on retreading and commercial business, Dealtrey turned down a chance to divest the outlets as a group.

Instead he offered each store to its manager and helped make it financially possible for the managers to go into business for themselves.

Though Dealtrey passed away in 2003, employee benefits, including many unique touches, continue today under President Ron Bennett's leadership. They include profit sharing, generous medical benefits and financial rewards for loyalty and performance.

Dealtrey was also an icon in the community. As a Jaycee he helped lead a movement to reform city government.

He spearheaded the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) system that created five sites. They have attracted some 300 companies bringing with them 15,000 jobs, $280 million in payrolls and nearly $10 million in taxes.

When Bethlehem Steel closed its mills in the area, eliminating some 20,000 jobs, the LVIPs were the economic salvation for the area.

And, in the 1980s, Dealtrey helped organize the I-78 Association, which helped push through construction of a 38-mile extension of the highway to link the Lehigh Valley to the national interstate system.

In 2004, the State of Pennsylvania honored Dealtrey by renaming a portion of I-78 from the New Jersey border to Berks County, Pa., the Walter J. Dealtrey Memorial Highway.


For 20 years Barry Steinberg of Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown, Mass., MTD's first Tire Dealer of the Year, has given a new lease on life to prison inmates he has hired under the Massachusetts Pre Release program.

Most have worked out well. One long-time member of the group is a Direct Tire manager; another has worked there since 1985.

Steinberg's "higher than average" wages and perks such as five extra days' pay for workers with more than six month's service keep a stable work force.

Over the years, Steinberg has supported many local charities, raising money for causes such as the Anti-Defamation League and a cancer institute. He has provided funds to help the city's tree planting project.

In the last year, the dealership has concentrated on support of the Boston Food Bank, which provides for the homeless, and contributed $66,000 to the Miracle Network that helps provide medical care for needy children.

Jerry Bauer's employees share in Bauer Built Inc.'s generous 401k retirement program.

Bauer, the dealership and its employees benefit the small town of Durand, Wis., in a major way both economically and in community service.

Bauer is active in his church, on a local bank board and in a number of civic and fraternal organizations.

Over the years, he also has been active in tire industry affairs as a board member and president of the former National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association (NTDRA) and as chairman of the NTDRA's Commercial Tire Management Council.

Grismer Tire Co., headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, goes all out to help its employees get ahead. President John Marshall's dealership is a partner in the auto repair program at the area's Sinclair Community College.


The dealer pays the tuition for any of its techs who earn As and Bs in the program and picks up half the tuition for a C. This plus continuing their full salary.

Grismer Tire supports a number of worthwhile causes, including high school band programs, the Salvation Army, National Public Radio and a club that provides scholarships for children of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Before selling Team Tires Plus Ltd., Tom Gegax went all out to ensure his employees' health and spiritual well being. His Burnsville, Minn., headquarters had a fitness center and a meditation room and provided stock option opportunities for executives and monthly and annual bonuses for both outstanding individual and team performance.

Before and since becoming a counselor, speaker and writer on better management topics, Gegax has been an active advocate for making the earth a better place in which to live.

While selling and servicing tires he stressed recycling and supported a wide variety of charities and worthy causes such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the American Heart and Cancer Associations, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and others.

Today, in addition to many of those causes, he heads the Gegax Family Foundation that donates tens of thousands of dollars annually to support organizations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which monitors the honest labeling of food products; and the Waterkeeper Alliance, which checks on water quality in lakes, rivers and bays.

Though his son, Larry, runs day-to-day operations, Raynal Pearson, founder of Pearson Tire Co., is still an icon in Richfield, Utah, where the company was founded, and throughout the state where it has tire outlets.

Pearson and his wife, Maridell, have quietly supported a number of programs covering a large part of the state. For more than 30 years, they have sponsored the Sterling Scholarship program for high school students in central and southern Utah. Seniors selected in 13 categories get full-ride scholarships to the Utah college or university of their choice.

Pearson Tire also matches donations from the areas served by its stores made to the annual national Children's Miracle Network fund drive.

Raynal Pearson also has served as a bishop in the Mormon Church and as president of the stake (region) in Richfield. He has taught in the church's Missionary Training Center in Provo that prepares young Mormons to spend two years in the missionary field.

He also has been a director and fund-raiser for the Utah County American Cancer Society.


David Stringer sold Stringer Tire Co. in Jacksonville, Fla., to Michelin North America Inc. in 2000 and retired a year later after spending a year making sure the transition between his stores and Michelin's Tire Centers Inc. subsidiary went smoothly.

But employees who worked for him remember Stringer's generosity.

In the community, Stringer also supported a string of charities such as United Way of America, the American Cancer Society, the USO (United Service Organizations) and Boy Scouts of America. He was active in the Florida Independent Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association and the Florida Trucking Association.

Since retiring and moving to Georgia, where he has family roots, Stringer has continued his community concerns.

Despite a breakneck schedule of innovative marketing plans and large-scale tire store acquisitions and dealership expansion, Larry Morgan has always been generous with his employees.

Morgan owns a minority interest in some 600 Team Tires Plus Ltd. stores, but people there still benefit from the generous pay scale and incentive compensation programs he initiated.

The tire store chain also has an emergency fund, established by Morgan and partially funded with an annual charity golf tournament and employee contributions. This fund annually provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to employees in need.

In the community, Morgan and his wife, Patty, have contributed $5 million toward construction of the Morgan Heart Hospital now being built as a wing of the Morton Plant Mease Hospital in Clearwater, Fla. They were also major contributors to the building fund at Grace Christian Church.


Raben Tire Co., based in Evanston, Ind., is a family-oriented dealership with stores located mostly in smaller communities. Store managers have a great deal of freedom in their operations and are encouraged to be active in their communities.

Tom Raben has contributed a great deal of time to the tire industry, especially in 2002-2003 when he served as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) in the second year after it was formed from the merger of the Tire Association of North America (TANA) and the International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA).

He's also been active in local civic and charitable groups, has purchased equipment and scoreboards for a high school wrestling team, and worked with Habitat for Humanity International, a group that builds homes for the poor.

Bob and Juanita Purcell operate the third largest independent commercial tire dealership in the United States, but in 2002 generously put 100% of Purcell Tire & Rubber Co.'s stock in the hands of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

It's open to all their 1,000 or so employees from their first day on the job. With five year's service, workers are fully vested. Their share of stock in the company is based 75% on their salary and 25% on seniority.

These benefits provide for a great retirement. Workers can take payment at 65 or stay on and let the benefits accumulate.

Needless to say, this is a powerful lure in attracting good people and leads to uncommon loyalty to the Purcells and Purcell Tire.

In the tire industry, the Purcells have been active nationally in TIA and regionally with the Missouri Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association.

They have contributed to a wide variety of charities, especially the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping children with life-threatening conditions fulfill their dreams.

Other groups that have benefited from their gifts are Habitat for Humanity, the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army and needy children and adults in the Potosi, Mo., area where Purcell Tire is headquartered.

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.