Jon Shay is first and foremost a trucking guy.
Before there was Main Tire Exchange, there was Shay Trucking. A local less-than-truckload trucking company founded by his grandfather Lloyd Shay in the 1930s, it was built by his father Harold into a thriving enterprise also comprising truck service/repair, fuel oil and a 24-hour restaurant.
The business thrived in part because of its location, Jon Shay said, on New York State Route 63. Before the advent of the interstate system, Route 63 was the primary thoroughfare from Buffalo, N.Y., to New York City. Jon Shay's first full-time job with the family company was as a truck driver.
Shay's Service Inc., the parent company of Main Tire and other businesses in Dansville, got seriously involved in the tire business in 1972 when Harold Shay became convinced the trucking company should get into retreading after seeing a demonstration of the Bandag Inc. precure retreading process.
Mr. Shay found a partner for the new manufacturing company, only to have that partner pull out after the contracts with Bandag had been signed. Nonetheless, he persevered and 34 years later Main Tire is now an ISO 9001-certified Bandag retreader, supplying trucking companies and other tire dealers throughout western New York.
Prior to that, Shay's Trucking also handled new truck tires-first with Dunlop as far back as 1993, then BFGoodrich and Firestone.
As the trucking industry started changing radically in the 1980s, the Shays sold their trucking business and refocused on the commercial tire business. The dealership features Bridgestone as its No. 1 brand and also sells Goodyear, according to Tim Shay, Jon's 56-year-old brother and business partner.
Tim has been working full time for Main Tire for just the past 11 years, but Jon credits him with being the anchor of the business, tending to the financial and logistical aspects and making it easier for him to devote time to his end of the business partnership and his many volunteer activities.
``It's a good `ham and eggs' situation,'' Tim said about working with his brother.
Tim initially worked in the trucking industry, moving to Buffalo when the Shays sold their interest in their own trucking company.
The Shays' businesses, occupying 13 acres on the north end of Dansville and at satellite locations in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., generate about $16 million to $17 million in sales annually from tires, bulk fuel sales, commercial vehicle repair, storage units, etc. With 80 employees, Main Tire is one of the 10 largest private employers in the county.
Tim points to the longevity among the firm's workers-lots of 30-year employees-as testimony to the way the family runs the business.
One example of that is the firm's policy in the retread shop: Main Tire pays its retread shop personnel a bonus during the winter when production drops, in part to keep them employed. This has reduced personnel turnover, which in turn keeps training costs down and retread quality high, Tim said.
For its contributions to the local community-supporting youth baseball and softball teams, donating the use of its trucks for community events, sponsoring charity sports events, etc.-Main Tire earned the local chamber of commerce's 2005 Business of the Year award earlier this year.