COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 3, 2002) - Steve Cloward and Dan Howarth may have shared a cup of coffee with Big O Tires Inc., and perhaps not a whole lot more. The two former executives, however, each made a significant mark on the giant retailer, and now have something equally significant in common.
Mr. Cloward, who started his 20-year Big O career in 1978, and Mr. Howarth, who left that same year, were recognized for their accomplishments and contributions with their induction into the company's hall of fame.
Mr. Howarth actually began his career in 1937, purchasing an OK Tire store for $130, along with some hunting gear and an old car. OK Tires—known in those days as OK Rubber Welders—predated Big O by a quarter century.
Mr. Howarth, at Big O from the start, recalled a story of how the name “Big O” came about. It wasn't given the moniker merely because tires look like Big O's. The “O” stands for “opportunity,” which Mr. Howarth was looking for back in the day.
“I was with OK Rubber for years and decided to quit that and start a new deal,” he said. “So I talked to (the son of) Millard James, who was the (founder) of OK.”
Perhaps offering a bit of legend—the story could not be confirmed by current Big O personnel—Mr. Howarth said the Big O name actually emanated from a saloon at which plans for the company were discussed.
“We went to a bar called the Big Oasis,” Mr. Howarth recalled. “The owner of the bar said, 'Why don't you call it Big O.'”
OK eventually was KO'd, as Big O evolved into what it is today. Mr Howarth was around from the company's inception in 1962 until 1978, when according to Big O he sold his 16 company-owned stores, the largest retreading facility in the Pacific Northwest, and a distribution center that covered several states, to Big O.
Mr. Howarth is credited with concepts that “revolutionized the tire industry and remain today at the core of the company's 'Bigology,'” a Big O publication said.
Mr. Howarth, who traveled from his home in Utah to Colorado Springs for the ceremonies, said he was thrilled with his induction into the company hall of fame. “It meant quite a bit,” he said. “I was really happy about it.”
Ditto for Mr. Cloward, who spoke fondly of his time with Big O. After joining the company in 1978, his career highlights included a successful stint as company president, resurrection of the company's “Blue Book,” and growing the company from 200 stores in 1985 to 448 by 2000.
Among Mr. Cloward's other accomplishments was implementing such programs as “Cost U Less, Make U More,” and the “New Century” marketing program. He also redesigned the company logo.
“At this point in my life, what I have that I cherish most is memories,” said Mr. Cloward, who said he is for the most part out of the tire business, but owns some quick lube stores. “My time with Big O was just full of tremendous memories. There was a lot of satisfaction in watching people become successful.”
Mr. Cloward, who stepped down two years ago, traveled from his home in the Denver suburb of Parker to the induction ceremonies. He recalled tough times in his early days with the company.
“We had some growth periods, a lot of reorganization to go through,” he said.
“We had to reintroduce the company into a little more modern way of doing business, and we were able to be successful in most of what we were doing.”
Topping the list of his life and times as a Big O em-ployee, though, was his crowning achievement, the induction into the hall of fame.
“That would be No. 1,” he said. “It was a very special night shared with a lot of very special friends.”