It is no wonder we hear so many good reports about our local Les Schwab Tire companies in Lassen, Plumas and Modoc counties. After all, this major tire retailer has been repeatedly selected in polls as one of the public’s favorite businesses.
We spoke with local managers Jeff Carlon in Susanville and Ron Horton in Quincy as well as assistant manager Michael Fabela in Alturas. The Quincy store is locally owned by Horton. The Susanville and Alturas locations are company owned stores. We found no difference, however, when it came that ‘sudden service’ the company is famous for. All three dealers also offer the same warranties to their customers, which are honored in all locations.
Customers are greeted immediately at their car door when they arrive at Les Schwab Tires. The practice of greeting customers as they drive into the shop’s parking lot has long been a company trademark. It is easy to see that the employees in the local stores we visited work well together on their primary goal, providing excellent service to their customers. Having a personal stake in the success of the business seems to create a positive camaraderie among employees.
His generous retirement plan was a factor in the decision made to name Les Schwab Tire as Modern Tire Dealer magazine’s “Tire Dealer of the Year” in 2000. The company was applauded by the magazine for their policy of sharing more than 51 percent of company profits with employees, making millionaires out of many Les Schwab employees by the time they retire.
Les understood the value of hard-working employees. Orphaned at a young age, Schwab was left to fend for himself when he was just 15. He proved he was up to the task of taking care of himself and his brother when he persuaded his school principal to let him out early to deliver newspapers. In doing so, he earned the $8.00 per month he needed to pay the rent.
He soon rose to the position of circulation manager which he returned to after serving in World War II. Anxious to be the proprietor of his own business, Schwab and his wife, Dorothy, sold their home , borrowed $1,100 from a family member and bought ‘OK Rubber Welders’ of Prineville in 1952. Two years later, he started his first profit sharing program with the store manager of his Redmond, Oregon store. It was in 1966 that Schwab formed the Les Schwab Retirement Trust. At the same time he changed his business name from OK Rubber Welders to Les Schwab Tire.
Today, Les Schwab has over 400 locations throughout the West and employs over 7,000 people. They are still based in Prineville, Oregon. Every location offers tires, custom wheels, shocks and batteries. Susanville manager Jeff Carlon told us they can get just about any size battery, from golf carts to big rigs. Each location also does alignments, lifting and lowering as well as shocks and struts. Some locations offer oil change services, including the stores in Quincy and Alturas.
Each location offers convenient credit options and the ‘Supermarket Selection’ which helped make the company famous. When Schwab initiated the supermarket tire selection concept, it turned his tire warehouse into a tire showroom. Customers can walk through and choose the exact tires they want to purchase with multiple brands of tires in each size to choose from. This has proved to be an incredibly successful business strategy for the firm. Tires come with a full written warranty which includes free flat repairs and road hazard protection.
Employees receive continual training updates on the services they offer and on the latest tire technology. Carlon showed us a new computer station just installed in the Susanville store to aid in the ongoing education process.
Les Schwab’s key philosophies are still practiced today. They are: “Pride in Performance”, and “Sudden Service”. To quote Les Schwab, “Sudden Sudden service means , ‘You come in ~ We come running’ …ready to assist each customer. No service or need is too small.”
The key goals of the company include continuing the legendary Les Schwab level of service to customers and offering opportunities for employees. Each manager we spoke with showed pride in their staff. Every location was clean, organized and busy with satisfied customers when we arrived.
Les Schwab Tires
Alturas: (530) 233-3623
Manager: Andy Johnston
Susanville: (530) 257-8883
Manager: Jeff Corlon
Quincy: (530) 283-1450
Owner/Manager: Ron Horton
Portola: (530) 832-1533
Owner/Manager: Bill Coates