MASONTOWN, W.Va. — When Christine Croucher first started selling tires in the 1980s, she'd occasionally come across a male customer who would say something like, "I want to talk to the man in charge" or "I want to talk to someone who knows about tires."
Not so much anymore.
"Men aren't as big of (jerks) as they used to be," she said, laughing. "I do run into that occasionally, but I have to say that over the past 10 or 15 years, that's been alleviated pretty much. It's a fair and equal world out there — at least women are trying to make it that way — but I think it is. It's equalized somewhat."
Ms. Croucher — people around Masontown call her the "Tire Lady" — started her career as a small gas station owner in rural Pennsylvania before opening Tire Lady's Rainbow Tire in Masontown in 1984. She opened a second location in Morgantown, W.Va. in 2008.
While society has changed quite a bit over that time, she said she believes her success is due to something else.
"I think where I live, in West Virginia, people respect hard work," she said. "It's not what you say. It's what you do. You have to prove it to them."
Ms. Croucher, who turns 68 in November, employs 22 at her two locations, including six women who work the front counter. She said she's had a handful of female technicians over the years — including two really good ones — but she's found that having women at the front counter works best, physically and temperamentally.