PROSSER — Even as a child, Mack Brown, 64, was learning about customer service. Brown learned the tire business by cleaning up, sweeping up and eventually changing tires at the OK Rubber Welders’ Company, owned by his father.

Truman Brown started the family business in 1949, on the former Highway 12, now called Wine Country Road.

A few years later, when Mack was old enough, he helped his father at Rubber Welders’, a company which specialized in retreading tires, using special machines that basically “cooked the rubber tread on existing tires,” Brown explained.

Because rubber for new tires was rationed during the World War II, people were forced to get as much mileage out of their tires as possible.

Thanks to the rubber welding machine developed by a Nebraskan man, the tires were given a second life with the use of the retreading process, Brown remarked.

In the 1950s, the company started selling more tires, continuing to retread tires until the mid-1970s, when that service was “phased out,” Brown, described.

“My dad sold his first set of new tires to Duane Gerking in 1952,” Brown added. “He is still a customer today.”

When it came time for his father to retire at age 65, Brown put those the business and customer service lessons to work as its’ new company president.

In fact, Brown can proudly proclaim, he had many loyal customers return to his shop for their automotive services.

He purchased his father’s OK Rubber Welders’ Company in 1979. He renamed the company, Brown Tire Co., Inc., “…and we sold tires.”

In fact, Brown did so well in tire sales, doubling his volume within two years, that an Oregon tire man, the famed Les Schwab, came to Brown offering to make Brown Tire Store one of his member stores.

“We came to an agreement and my store is still a Les Schwab member store, a rarity out of the 450 dealerships across the Northwest. There are only 48 or 49 of us,” Brown clarified.

Brown said the company will mark its 70th anniversary on Sept. 11, and is one of Prosser’s oldest, continuously, operating, family owned businesses.

“I purchased the Grandview Les Schwab in 2011, making it a part of our family,” Brown expounded.

The family legacy goes on as Brown’s daughter, Leslie Brown Cleaver is now an active part of the business, handling the company’s accounts payable and accounts receivable department. Her husband Kelby Cleaver is the store manager.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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