SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Aug. 1, 2002)—Tuesday, April 30 began like any other workday for Dave Plourde, manager of Pete's Tire Barn's Springfield location. For service technician Rich Chayer, it was a first day on the job like no other.
The two co-workers teamed up that morning to foil a robbery outside a local bank branch, stopping the thief in his tracks with the cash in hand.
Both men said they were just reacting and doing what they thought they had to do. It wasn't until after the fact that they realized what a risk they had taken.
Mr. Plourde was showing Mr. Chayer the commercial outlet's morning route. The pair was on the way back to the store when they saw a man carrying a paper bag that had red dye streaming from it. The dye, along with the fact the man was wearing a long tan wool coat, wool gloves and a hat on a sunny, 80-degree day, tipped them off.
“Rich and I looked at each other and said, 'No way. This can't be happening,'” Mr. Plourde recalled.
It was indeed happening. Thinking (or perhaps not thinking) quickly, Mr. Plourde ran a red light and drove toward the back of the bank, where a teller was pointing toward the man with the bag. The man was walking away from the bank toward a car in a nearby parking lot.
“We pulled out of the bank parking lot, pulled into the (other) parking lot, jumped the curb, then nosed up to the driver's door (of the apparent getaway vehicle) so he couldn't get in,” Mr. Plourde said.
At no time during the goings-on did it occur to Mr. Plourde or Mr. Chayer that they may be dealing with an armed robber.
It turned out they weren't. Mr. Plourde said the would-be robber had his finger inside his coat when he held up the bank.
Later, however, it did occur to them.
“We were sitting down drinking coffee and we just thought, 'Oh, (shoot),'” Mr. Plourde said.
Mr. Chayer, who had spent time in the Army, called it something he would do in any situation.
“You don't react you just act. After the first couple minutes he didn't pull anything out. I figured it was kind of safe,” he said, before musing, “he would have just gotten one of us. We had 50-50 odds. That's not bad. That's better odds than at the casino.”
According to Mr. Plourde, once the two men had the robber pinned outside his car, Mr. Chayer grabbed a hammer from their truck and the man basically just stood put. Mr. Plourde then called their store, which called the police, who arrived moments later to apprehend the suspect.
“I would have at least expected some kind of a struggle,” Mr. Chayer said. “He was pretty much out of it. He was a little short of a six pack.”
What did the two men get for their effort? A large cash reward? A certificate of honor? A free toaster?
“No. Not even a thank you,” Mr. Plourde said with a chuckle. “I think they don't want to do anything because they don't want to encourage other people to get involved.”
Now that it's over, Mr. Chayer said he can't wait to get back to normal. His busy first day on the job at Pete's—he is a 16-year tire industry veteran—has led to numerous interview requests as well as special treatment at local watering houses, which he said is actually working against him.
“With all the interviews, it's like something that won't go away. I just kind of want it to end,” he said. “I walk into the bar I go to after work, and it's, 'the hero's here' and it ends up costing me money.”
Pete's Tire Barn, based in Orange, Mass., operates 15 locations in four northeastern states.
The 3,000-sq.-ft. Springfield shop employs four people, has two bays and sells Bridgestone, Firestone, Michelin, Cooper and BFGoodrich tires. It is primarily a commercial operation, but does some retail business.