WASHINGTON-Co-founders of two of North America's largest independent retail tire dealerships are among this year's five inductees into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place Sept. 8 at a special awards dinner held during the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's convention in Dallas.
The inductees are:
Robert F. Gatzke, a co-founder of Parnelli Jones Inc. and a past-president of the NTDRA;
William B. Thomas, a co-founder of what is now Big O Tires Inc.;
Marvin E. Bruce, chairman of TBC Corp., a marketer/distributor of private brand tires and automotive parts;
Barry Bennett Garfield, founder of Tire Guide Inc., publisher of the Tire Guide and several other tire-related publications; and
Herman K. Hochschwender, chairman and CEO of Smithers Scientific Services Inc., an independent testing and consulting firm.
Robert F. Gatzke
Bob Gatzke's term as NTDRA president in 1991-92 is probably best remembered for the adoption of ``The Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights,'' a document that attempted to spell out what dealers ought to be able to expect from their tire suppliers.
It was a project Mr. Gatzke conceived, developed and implement-ed, and it drew the biggest grassroots response from NTDRA members in the group's history.
In developing the bill of rights, Mr. Gatzke had the advantage of having seen the tire business from both tire maker and independent dealer sides.
He began his career in the industry fresh out of college in 1960, working for Firestone in the company's Los Angeles office. He managed several company-owned stores in that area and eventually became a supervisor.
While with Firestone, Mr. Gatzke met race driver Parnelli Jones, who he discovered shared his interest in opening an independent tire dealership.
In 1966, the pair, along with three other partners, launched Parnelli Jones Inc., based in Dominguez Hills, Calif.
Mr. Gatzke served as executive vice president of the dealership.
During his tenure, Parnelli Jones grew into a 500-employee enterprise with 43 retail outlets, six wholesale warehouses and a race tire division, posting total annual sales of more than $60 million. He retired in 1992.
Mr. Gatzke also was active in the California Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association-South, serving on its board for 20 years, including one term as president in 1985.
William B. Thomas
Bill Thomas entered the tire business June 1, 1945, when he opened an O.K. Rubber Welders retail dealership and retread operation in Berkeley, Calif.
In 1962, Mr. Thomas was one of a small group of O.K. dealers that left the organization to found their own buying group, Big O Tire Dealers.
In 1965, Denver-based Big O granted Mr. Thomas the right to develop the Big O concept in northern California, and to that end he formed William B. Thomas Enterprises Inc., which did business as Big O Tires of Northern California and grew into a network of 87 stores.
He was elected president and chairman of Big O Tire Dealers in 1984 and retired a year later. Shortly thereafter, Thomas Enterprises merged with Big O Tire Dealers and, in 1986, went public as Big O Tires Inc.
Today, Big O is the largest independent franchiser of retail tire outlets in North America, with more than 400 locations. Though he was no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the company, Mr. Thomas remained on Big O's board of directors until 1993.
A protege and successor, current Big O President and CEO Steven Cloward, said that ``in the eyes of many, Bill Thomas was the glue that held this organization together.''
In announcing Mr. Thomas' selection, the Hall of Fame said, ``Over the years, at his urging, a number of others have come into the industry and credited his leadership and example as the reason for their success.''
Mr. Thomas also was active in the American Retreaders' Association, serving as its president from 1978 to 1982. In 1980, he received the AMF Recognition Award for service to the retread industry.
Mrvin E. Bruce
Marvin Bruce's tire industry career began in 1950, when he joined Uniroyal, where he served in a number of increasingly responsible aftermarket sales positions, eventually becoming vice president of Uniroyal brand replacement sales.
In 1972, he left Uniroyal to become President and CEO of TBC, because, he said, the opportunity was close to his ambition of going into business for himself and because he saw a great future for the private brand business.
At that time, TBC was a buying group with annual sales of about $50 million. During Mr. Bruce's tenure it grew into one of the largest marketers and distributors of private label tires, with annual sales in excess of $600 million. He also led TBC through a transition to a public company in 1983.
He is credited with implementing innovative marketing and sales programs that enabled the company to grow and to better meet the requirements of both customers and suppliers.
When a new president was hired in 1991, Mr. Bruce took on the positions of chairman and CEO. He retired from the chief executive position on July 1, and though no longer active in the day-to-day management of TBC, he remains chairman of its board of directors.
Barry Bennett Garfield
After graduating from Syracuse University in 1948, Bennett Garfield accepted a sales position with The Tire Mart, which specialized in private label truck tires.
He soon saw a need for more detailed tire information within the industry and left Tire Mart in 1950 to start his own publishing company, Tire Guides Inc., in Farmingdale, N.Y.
His first publication, Tire-Fax, was a quick and easy reference containing wholesale discount prices on passenger and truck tires, plus major discount structures. It was an immediate success and was published annually for 35 years.
Tire Guide, a complete guide to tire fitment on domestic and imported cars for the 10 most recent model years, debuted in 1957 and has appeared annually since.
In 1966, Tread Design Guide appeared, containing a complete library of tire footprints, an invaluable aide to law enforcement agencies. Mr. Garfield currently is working with the FBI to establish a computer data base of tire prints, which he said will be the first of its kind in the world.
Tire Guides Inc. publishes several other tire-related booklets, including Who Makes It & Where and the Tire Quality Grading Booklet. The company also has worked with the NTDRA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association to publish tire safety information and instructive wall charts on tire service.
Mr. Garfield's industry involvement has not been limited to publishing, however. In 1959, he obtained a Pirelli franchise covering four Northeastern states and launched International Tire & Wheel Co., also on Long Island, one of the first wholesale distributors to promote radial tires.
Mr. Garfield sold that business to his brother in 1975, and in 1987 relocated his publishing business to Boca Raton, Fla. Shortly thereafter, he turned control of the business over to his daughter, but continues to serve as an advisor.
Active in business education since the 1980s, Mr. Garfield has developed 10 two-hour workshops on practical small-business topics and is in the process of developing them into a videotape series.
Herman Hochschwender's tire industry career began two years after his graduation from Harvard Business School, when he joined Firestone in Akron as an assistant to the manager of production.
He held several increasingly responsible positions in the area of tire technology and manufacturing before joining Mohawk Tire & Rubber Co. to head a unit that developed and produced private label tires for overseas markets.
In 1958, Mr. Hochschwender founded a consulting firm, Hochschwender & Associates, which specialized in addressing various technical problems associated with rubber product production.
He envisioned developing a full-service organization serving the tire and rubber industry, and in 1972 acquired Smithers Laboratories in Akron, which he merged with his consulting firm to form Smithers Scientific Services Inc.
Under Mr. Hochschwender's leadership-first as president and, since 1989, as chairman and CEO-Smithers has gained a worldwide reputation in the fields of research, testing and management and engineering consulting. Meanwhile, the company has added testing facilities in Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Florida.
Mr. Hochschwender also has served two terms as president of the Union Internationale des Laboratoires Independants, based in London.