AKRON—The Tire Association of North America Hall of Fame's class of 1999 may be the smallest ever, but there is nothing small about the accomplishments of the three inductees. The trio—Ann Gaither, Francis Zrostlic and Paul Zur-cher—will join 76 others in this shrine to tire industry achievement at the Hall of Fame Breakfast Nov. 2 at the 1999 International Tire Expo in Las Vegas.
And the Hall of Fame is no longer just brethren. Ann Gaither, former CEO of the Heafner Tire Group, is the first woman and also the first second-generation family member of a hall of famer to be inducted. Her father, James Harlan Heafner, was inducted as a member of the hall's inaugural class in 1985.
Mrs. Gaither called the induction ``a great honor'' and credited her success to her company's employees. ``A lot of people made me look awfully good,'' she said.
She also credited her colleagues in the male-dominated tire industry. ``In a tough industry, I made it as a woman and never was treated with disrespect,'' Mrs. Gaither said.
When she steps up to the podium to be inducted, it won't be unfamiliar territory. Her father was too ill to make the trip to the 1985 induction in Atlanta, so Mrs. Gaither read his speech at the ceremony.
Mrs. Gaither is retired, but she remains active in her church and in the business, as well as in political arenas.
She recently completed a term on the North Carolina Board of Transportation and is active in the Committee of 200—a group of businesswomen that provides mentoring and scholarships for young women.
Paul Zurcher, president of Zurcher Tire in Monroe, Ind., founded his company 51 years ago in a one-bay service station.
``My first dream and my goal was to have a three-bay service station,'' he said.
Today, Mr. Zurcher heads the Zurcher Group, a 170-dealer network covering seven states which includes retail and commercial dealerships and retreading plants.
Mr. Zurcher also has served on TANA's advisory councils and is active in philanthropic and volunteer activities in Indiana.
He credits his success to the people he's worked with over the years, and he values the long-term relationships—some as long as 50 years—he's had with customers, suppliers and others in the industry.
Mr. Zurcher said he takes a lot of pride in the dealers he has partnered with. ``This is what's exciting, to help someone reach their dream,'' he said.
The Zurcher Group will continue to expand, he said, and his focus is now on developing a long-range plan for succession. Mr. Zurcher said his two sons, Larry and Mark, will continue to operate the business when he steps aside.
Francis Zrostlik, CEO of Stellar Industries in Garner, Iowa, founded Iowa Mold Tooling in 1961, sold it in 1985 and started Stellar in 1990. He has helped ``many, many tire dealers make a lot of money with service,'' he said.
He founded Stellar to produce and market equipment for the recycling industry, he said. But, after four years, the company began to produce products for the tire industry.
Mr. Zrostlik is recognized as a pioneer in developing truck-mounted cranes and other tire service equipment. ``Creating new products is the most important thing I do for the tire industry,'' he said.
His success is based on building what customers want, he added, and what will make tire changing easier, faster and more profitable.
Mr. Zrostlik said he doesn't know what he'll say at the induction ceremony. But he does know he's proud that three of his employees have served on the board of TANA or its predecessor, the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association.
``I'm a great believer in the association (TANA),'' he said. ``The association does good things for the tire dealer.''