WINNIPEG, Manitoba-Ask Curtis Tire Co. owner Glen Curtis who the forefathers of the retail tire business are, and he's liable to say it's his family. And for good reason, too.
Winnipeg-based Curtis Tire is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a family-owned operation this year. That's a lengthy stay, considering the oldest tire makers in North American are only now reaching the century mark.
In fact, when brothers Charlie, Barney and Sid Curtis opened their fledgling retail outlet in Winnipeg, many of their customers traveled by horse-drawn buggies. That's changed over the years, of course, but the principles of Curtis Tire have remained the same through three generations of ownership, Glen Curtis said.
``We don't overdo it. We give the customer the best deal we can,'' he said.
Mr. Curtis' grandfather, Charlie Curtis, along with his brothers, founded Curtis Tire as a primarily Goodyear retail dealership in 1918.
Mr. Curtis' father, Howard Curtis-who also is a founding member of the Western Canadian Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association-took over the business 33 years later along with his brother, Charlie, and two cousins.
In 1954, the four moved the business to a larger location in Winnipeg and opened a mold-cure retread shop that processed passenger, bias truck and grader tires. In 1979, when the industry began to move toward precure processes, Curtis Tire exited the retreading business, Mr. Curtis said.
Two years later the second generation of Curtises handed down the business to the current owner, who promptly moved the outlet to a location he bought on Arlington Street in downtown Winnipeg-marking the first time Curtis Tire had owned its own location. Previously, the company leased its buildings from Goodyear Canada Inc.
Six years later, WCTDRA director Dave Seifert became a partner in the business, and the two promptly bought half of Expert Tire Co., a Bandag retread shop in Winnipeg, re-entering the area of business the company had abandoned 15 years earlier.
Today the outlet carries Goodyear, Michelin and Bridgestone tires as its major brands, but Mr. Curtis is quick to point out that Michelin is the company's best seller. In fact, Michelin Tires (Canada) Ltd. recently honored the outlet for its 75 years as an independent dealership.
The primary focus of Curtis Tire is retail and light commercial tire sales and service, although its two service trucks perform road maintenance on large truck fleets, Mr. Curtis said.
``Service has always been my forte,'' he admitted.
The company has its share of trucking accounts, Mr. Curtis said. At times, he said, customers bringing in their passenger cars can get overwhelmed by a host of large trucks parked in the outlet's service bays.
``It can be a little intimidating to customers (with passenger cars), so we try to save space for them all of the time,'' he explained. ``Actually we do most of our commercial service on the road.''
But service-whether it be on a small car or a huge tractor, in the shop or on the road-is what has kept the operation successful for 75 years, Mr. Curtis said.
If you don't believe the company takes its service seriously, just ask Curtis Tire mechanic Otto Molzahn. He's been with the operation for 42 of the company's 75 years.