BATESVILLE, Miss. — Robert H. "Bob" Dunlap, who turns 94 in November, claims the secret to his longevity is drinking six cups of black coffee a day.
He's quick to share a copy of an article that touts the benefits of coffee.
"I tell people, if you want to stick around long enough for my funeral, you better start drinking coffee," Dunlap said.
As chairman and CEO of Dunlap & Kyle Co. Inc., he still comes into the office in Batesville every day for several hours.
So when does he plan to retire?
"Never," he said. "That's for dead people. I tell them we're going to do it my way or the highway."
Dunlap was born in 1929, the same year his father, John "Jack" Dunlap, and his cousin S.H. "Hudson" Kyle created the company. In the early years, the company sold cars and tires and distributed oil.
Bob Dunlap joined the company after serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1951-53. He took over the tire side of the business from his father, while his brother took over the car dealership.
Bob Dunlap grew the company into a major regional tire distributor and retailer, and today the company operates 18 wholesale distribution warehouses and about 40 retail stores in four states under the Gateway Tire and Hesselbein Tire banners.
Over the years he has served on numerous dealer councils and was a founding member of TBC Corp., created in 1956 by Cordovan Associates, a tire dealer purchasing group.
"I've known a lot of good people in the tire business," he said, pointing to photos on his office wall of TBC founding members, including Marvin Bruce and Bobby Carroll. "There were some good people involved at that time. And they built a good company."
He also recalls the iconic tire dealer Les Schwab.
"A lot of people will spend a lot of money on advertising. I spend none. We got a lot of retail stores, I won't spend any money. You do it with service. We do it with what Schwab taught me," he said.
He prides himself on being an honest business man, both with his suppliers and his customers.
"I call it keeping it straight. As long as you keep it straight, you got no problems," Dunlap said.
His son Joe, who serves as CFO in charge of the retail stores, recalled how his father told him: "Don't you ever sell something to somebody that they really didn't need because that's stealing. We're not in the business of stealing. So we try to help people. You have to make a profit, because you have to pay your people, and your expenses. But you want to be honest with everything you do."
"I think honesty is another legacy that he has left. Honest dealing in business," the younger Dunlap said.
Bob Dunlap attributes his business honesty and work ethic to being raised in the Presbyterian church and in Boy Scouts.
Dunlap said he is proud of being an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts.
His family upbringing and his background also instilled the need to be generous with his wealth.
Consequently, Dunlap has been named the Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian this year due to his benevolence to his community, including supporting education and conservation.
He said he thinks his reputation in his community as a humanitarian has boosted the reputation of the dealership.
"It's not why I did it. But I think we have an obligation. Part of the scout oath that I took, and I always took that seriously, part of the oath is to help other people at all times," Dunlap said.