At age 90, Albert Pahl still comes in to work at 7:45 a.m. daily to deliver tires to Pahl Tire Co.'s wholesale customers.
Mr. Pahl, who has worked in the tire business for nearly 70 years, is still ready to drive a truckload of tires every morning to area car dealerships, unload the tires, then come back and greet customers. His work ethic is ``old school'' in that he still comes in to the dealership on Saturdays even though Pahl Tire doesn't deliver on weekends, according to Roger Bunting, Pahl Tire's manager.
``He's a really vibrant guy,'' Mr. Bunting said. ``He talks more than I do. He's remarkable for his age.''
Even though he could stay home, Mr. Pahl said he relishes the business relationships he's built in the Madison area over the years.
``I enjoy going out on my deliveries to all these dealerships because I get to know all these fellows,'' Mr. Pahl said. ``It's all about seeing someone you know and can visit with. I deliver anywhere from 30 to 50 tires every morning. I only work mornings,'' though he added, lightheartedly, ``my wife keeps me working in the afternoons.''
Pahl Tire was founded in 1936 as a U.S. Royal dealership by Mr. Pahl's brother, Pat, and Pat's business partner, John Griffith. Mr. Pahl helped his brother out on occasion, but he didn't become a partner in the business until after graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1940.
At the time, Mr. Pahl worked as a commercial tire salesman but did change a ``lot of tires.'' He said the equipment he used then was antique compared with today's tire-changing machinery.
``It used to be that when you changed tires, you did it all by hand, but now you do it with machines,'' Mr. Pahl said. ``So it's not quite as hard as it was. With your modern equipment all you do is put the tire on it and push a button, and it's off the rim. I'm used to the days when you had a couple of irons, and you changed it by using your irons to pull the tire off.''
His starting salary was $1 a day, but after a ``vacation'' period of serving in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Pahl said he received a pay raise to approximately $150 per month.
``When I started in the business, there was no such thing as television or a computer or anything like that. I've seen all of that come,'' Mr. Pahl told Tire Business. ``When a man told me years ago that they could store as much information on the head of a nail as they put in a library, I said, `You must be crazy.' Well, we got it today.''
About 20 years ago, Mr. Pahl bought out his brother and Mr. Griffith, then sold his stake in the business about seven years ago to his son Doug, 56, he said. When Mr. Pahl is not delivering tires, he spends some of his free time in the winter ice fishing and is waiting anxiously for the lakes to freeze over soon, he said.
Mr. Bunting, who works as Doug Pahl's right hand man, said the single-store dealership posts about $1.5 million in annual sales, 40 percent of which is wholesale revenue mainly gleaned from car dealers.
``There's a great deal of them,'' Mr. Bunting said, referring to area car dealers. ``There's one group in particular that has about 13 different brands and locations.... We've got the Ford dealers, the GM dealers, the Chrysler dealers, and (the Pahls) had relationships with these people for years. They've done business with the car dealers before there was a program to do business with the car dealers.''
Pahl Tire offers tire changeovers to an auto dealership down the street from it, as well as basic tire service and flat repair, Mr. Bunting noted. A Michelin Alliance dealership, Pahl Tire carries Michelin, Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, Continental, Kumho and Cooper brands and also offers automotive service.
Situated a block from downtown Madison's capital square, Pahl Tire is a two-bay store housed in a facility originally built in 1926 to be a taxi company, according to Mr. Bunting. The dealership has no problems staying busy, he said, because the downtown area is lined with condominiums, and ``money is not an issue'' for these motorists.
Mr. Bunting admitted that Pahl Tire still hasn't computerized because Doug Pahl ``has never embraced the technology,'' and he said he believes that's another reason why Mr. Pahl is still sharp.
``Every day he'll sit here and take all wholesale invoices for in-house sales, and you're talking six-figure invoice numbers,'' Mr. Bunting said. ``Everything's done manually.''
Mr. Pahl doesn't mind the work and said he's willing to ``keep on working as long as I can.''