WATERTOWN, Mass. — Barry Steinberg, founder and CEO of Direct Tire & Auto Service, died April 27 of prostate cancer. He was 75.
He served in the U.S. Army in Thailand during the Vietnam War. After his service, Mr. Steinberg began a lifelong career in the auto service business, initially working for Duddy Kravitz at Duddy's Tire.
In 1974, he partnered with his friend Albee Stone, founding Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown. After six months he bought Mr. Stone's share of the business.
The dealership grew to five locations in the Boston area — in Watertown, Norwood, Peabody, Natick and Medway.
The dealership, which specializes in high-end tires and custom wheels, was able to win over customers with great service, he said, echoing his father's motto: "The customer is always right."
According to his obituary, Mr. Steinberg's clever marketing phrases — "We'll Fix It So It Brakes" and "We'll Brake, Shock & Exhaust You" — became hallmarks on Massachusetts Turnpike billboards. Boston radio listeners would often hear his trademark voice touting "Dye-Rect Tire" in commercials.
Direct Tire was included in Inc. magazine's list of "26 Most Interesting Entrepreneurs" for helping to initiate the National Retail Tire Network, a trade group that turned competitors into peers.
An advocate for the small business community, Mr. Steinberg encouraged passage of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Act in 2013.
Mr. Steinberg worked with the state Department of Corrections Work Release Program to offer former inmates employment and he was a strong advocate for mentoring and training young men and women in the auto service business.
He spearheaded fundraisers for the Boston Food Bank, the Jimmy Fund, Boston Children's Hospital, as well as Watertown High Robotics Team and Peabody Little League.
"Barry was a well-known fixture in the Boston area, rarely going out on the town without running into a customer or friend. Barry was the person you called when you were in a jam or just needed advice," according to his obituary.
Survivors include his wife Penny; sons Jason, Matthew and Dan; daughter Sara; and six grandchildren.