Larry Nicholls Sr., the founder of multiple retail tire businesses and Wholesale Tire Distributors, and an early leader in the creation of the American Car Care Centers (ACCC), died on Sept. 26, 2023, at the age of 78.
His work in the tire industry began in 1962 when he joined the retail division of U.S. Rubber Co. By 1976 he had oversight of 500 stores, but he also wanted to strike out on his own. That same year he founded Discount Tire & Automotive and opened his first retail store in Logan, Utah.
In 1977 he expanded into Wyoming under the name Plains Tire Co., and ultimately grew that brand to 14 locations. (He sold the nine remaining Plains Tire stores to Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. in 2021.
In 1980 he founded Wholesale Tire Distributors, which served customers in the intermountain west, according to Nicholls’ obituary. (The wholesale business was acquired in 2005 by American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD), and at the time served 2,700 customers from three distribution centers in Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
In the late 1980s he created Tire Link, which allowed wholesale customers to buy tires online from a retail store — something his obituary notes “was unheard of at that time.
“Larry's tire empire was recognized by Modern Tire Dealer time and time again as one of the top 100 Independent tire store chains in the United States.”
In 1989 he played a role in the founding of American Car Care Centers (ACCC) and served as the organization’s first chairman. The group worked to help independent tire dealers, and at the time of its founding MTD called it “a new nationwide distribution concept.” Members offered a nationwide warranty and marketing aids, among other things. By the time the group dissolved in January 2014, it had a network of more than 1,100 point of sale thanks to its 21 distribution and retail partners.
According to his obituary, “A true trailblazer, Larry constantly sought out best practices from various industries, always eager to implement fresh ideas within the tire market. He introduced iPads into his service lanes, allowing technicians to provide visual explanations of potential repairs to customers through emailed videos.
“In 2012, Larry revolutionized the tire industry with his Store of the Future. He created a totally transparent experience for the customer and innovative sales process by replacing traditional counters with interactive kiosks, digital inspections, shop cameras with a video feed direct to customers, enhancing collaboration and customer experience. His tire-shopping application, Store of the Future, launched in 2010, enabled customers to browse, purchase, and schedule appointments entirely online.”
Outside of the tire world, Nicholls loved to golf and hunt, and he was proud to become the 27th person in the world to golf every course in the list of the Golf Digest World Top 100 Golf Courses.
He is survived by his children, daughter Christie Stock (Stephen Stock), son Clint Nicholls (LaNae Nicholls), and daughter Billie Nicholls-Glabe (Michael Glabe), along with nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, with another on the way.
A funeral service will be held on Oct. 4, 2023, at noon at White Pine Funeral Services, 753 S 100 E Logan, Utah. Viewings will be held at the funeral home on Oct. 3, 2023, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Interment at Logan Cemetery.