CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (Nov. 21, 2006) — For his successful transformation of a car wash business into a tire dealership, Vernon “Pee Wee” Rhodes, 71, founder of Plaza Tire Service, has won an advertising group's 2006 Triumph Award.
Presented at the Tri-State Advertising and Marketing Professionals' annual Small Business Marketing Expo held in Cape Girardeau, the award recognizes Mr. Rhodes' efforts, beginning in the 1960s, to expand his business, which began as Plaza Car Wash. The award presentation began with a retrospective video outlining Mr. Rhodes' life and career in the tire industry.
After returning from a six-year stint in the U.S. Marines, which he joined at age 17, Mr. Rhodes accepted a job as a bread salesman in Jackson, Mo., where he met Jack Lewis, founder of Bunny Bread. Mr. Lewis later offered Mr. Rhodes a partnership in Plaza Car Wash, sealing the pact with only a handshake, and a short time later Mr. Rhodes acquired Mr. Lewis' half of the business.
Realizing the business needed more than just car washing services to remain successful, Mr. Rhodes added retreaded tires to the car wash's offerings, eventually expanding into sales of new tires, which were changed on the sidewalk outside the car wash. When Cape Girardeau city officials opposed that operation and gave Mr. Rhodes 24 hours to stop the practice, the decision was made to close the car wash and focus on the tire business, according to a Plaza Tire press release.
The company renovated the car wash over one weekend, transforming it into Plaza Tire Service without losing a single day's work.
Today the dealership operates 45 retail stores throughout Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas, as well as a wholesale department, a Mighty Auto Parts franchise and a quick lube division. Mr. Rhodes' sons, Mark and Scott, oversee the company's day-to-day operations, but the company said their father “still lends a hand whenever needed.”