Pan American Tire, a fixture in South Florida tire retailing for the past 65 years, is now a chapter of industry history following the retirement of the chain's owner for the past 21 years.
Jack Grayson, owner and operator of Pan American Tire since 1985, sold the last remaining stores in June after health issues made him realize he couldn't carry on running the dealership.
The operation was primarily a Cooper distributor with 10 outlets.
Mr. Grayson suffered a series of heart attacks in 2003 that forced him out of the day-to-day operation of the business for about two years.
When he finally was able to return to work last year, he said he felt the dealership was not operating up to the standards that it should.
He initially took action to restore the chain to his standards, but he soon realized it was going to take more than he had to give.
At that point-and without a successor owner in the picture-he decided to sell the stores and retire.
Selling the stores proved easier than reviving them, he said, because they all are choice retail sites.
``I bought most of the properties in the late 1980s after I got fed up dealing with landlords,'' he said. ``I never expected them to appreciate like they did.''
But appreciate they did, leaving Mr. Grayson with some unexpected windfall profits in the process.
``We had people bidding up the price after I put them up for sale,'' he said.
Mr. Grayson invested a bit of his profits in lakefront property in his native Tennessee, where he spends an increasing amount of time fishing.
Mr. Grayson started his dealership in 1985 along with then-business partner Jerry Christie, who he described as ``one of the best businessmen I've ever known.''
They began by buying two Pan American Tire outlets in West Palm Beach from Banner Delta Tire and Uniroyal Inc., which had operated a chain of two dozen Pan American Tire stores in Florida.
Messrs. Grayson and Christie had been store managers for the Pan American chain. Starting with those two stores, they eventually re-acquired 14 other Pan American outlets that had been sold to other independents and acquired the rights to the Pan American Tire name.
Along the way Mr. Christie died, and Mr. Grayson bought out his share of the business from his widow.
Pan American Tire was founded in 1939 and bought in 1961 by Uniroyal Inc., which operated it until 1980 as part of its company-owned store network.
In 1980 Uniroyal sold the dealership to an auto service chain in Viriginia, which operated it for five years before turning it over to Banner Delta Tire, a Uniroyal- and Delta-brand distributor.
Financial difficulties prompted Uniroyal and Banner Delta to close the outlets in late 1984 and seek new operators for the 15 remaining outlets.
It was at that time that Messrs. Grayson and Christie stepped into the picture.
Of the 10 remaining Pan American Tire outlets that Mr. Grayson sold, as many as six of them are still operating as tire and/or auto service stores, he said.
Mr. Grayson retains the rights to the Pan American name.