A Century of Success: Reno Vulcanizing Celebrates the Big 100

March 11, 2022

Around 20% of new businesses close within a year of opening, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fewer than 35% of businesses make it to their 10th anniversary. Reno Vulcanizing Auto Care has survived - and thrived - for 100 years. 

Based in Nevada’s third largest city, Reno Vulcanizing was founded in 1922 by immigrants Augustino “Gus” Besso and Frank Menante. 

The three-location dealership is run by third generation owners, Steve and Mitch Besso, who are preparing to hand the company to a fourth generation, Josh Besso, Mitch’s son. But before that, Reno Vulcanizing has a birthday to celebrate. 


The dealership is planning a number of activities to mark its centennial. In June, it will sponsor a charity golf tournament, “Driving Fore Diabetes,” which has raised more than $500,000 for the Nevada Diabetes Association (NDA) over the years. 

Later this summer, Reno Vulcanizing plans to hold a family day event for its employees and guests. 

And in September, the company will raffle off a restored Ford Model A pickup truck that once belonged to a former employee.

“We purchased the vehicle to return to the community as a give-back,” says Steve. 

Proceeds from the raffle will be split evenly between the NDA, the Reno-based National Automobile Museum and Veterans Guest House, a local non-profit that provides veterans and their families with housing when they are receiving medical treatment. 

Changing with the times

Steve and Mitch took ownership of Reno Vulcanizing in 1985 after acquiring it from their father, Lee Besso. The company, which at the time operated a retread plant, had more of a commercial tire thrust. 

The brothers saw opportunities to modernize some operations at the already-flourishing business. 

“We wanted to bring computers into the business, rather than having an office staff of four people with an old machine who did receivables,” Mitch explains.

“We had to go through two systems” before finding one that suited the company’s needs.

"From there, we looked at our retread plant and our commercial tire business.” 

Around the same time, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. moved into the Reno market “and purchased one of our competitors, so at that point, we decided to sell our plant and commercial business” to the tire manufacturer. 

Shifting to a heavier mix of consumer tire sales and auto service, Steve and Mitch added a second and third retail store.

“When we took the business over, the challenge was just to make it an even more viable, profitable organization,” says Steve. 

Honest and fair

Consumer expectations and shopping habits may have changed in the ensuing years, but tire buyers still need expert advice, says Mitch. 

“Consumers are a lot more informed because of the Internet. In some respects, that’s good and in some respects, that’s not good. Our clients look to us to steer them in the right direction.” 

Other things - like honest service and teamwork - have not gone out of style either, he adds. 

“Our Dad taught us in the beginning that we needed to be honest, have integrity and be fair with customers and that has resonated through the years,” says Mitch. 

“And Steve and I have been able to get along. We have different views on how the business should be run from time to time, but we respect each other and listen to each other. There are times when Steve is right and I’m wrong and times when I’m right and he’s wrong. But we’ve been able to get along all these years.”  

The brothers also credit Reno Vulcanizing’s success to their employees. 

“Without them we’re nothing,” says Steve. “These are the people who are in the trenches and make it work. We have eight employees with over 20 years of service each. How fortunate can you be to have a core group like that?” 

Steve and Mitch plan to retire within the next few years, when they will turn the family business over to Josh “and let him run with it.”

Josh, age 35, intends to “stay the course. And I would like to grow in the future if the opportunities are there.”

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.