All total, Les Schwab Tire Centers have been serving up quality tires and automotive service throughout the western U.S. for more than 60 years. The company was founded by Les himself and his unique brand of business has helped shape the store into a powerful national brand.
However, part of Les’s business philosophy was not to simply sell tires and increase the bottom line, but to become a neighbor to his customers and an integral part of the community. As the company grew, each store was charged to carry forward the Les Schwab brand of honesty and integrity, premium service, customer education and community involvement.
The Les Schwab Tire Centers in Centralia and Chehalis are no different. The two Lewis County stores embody the values of their founder as well as the spirit of the community. Leading that spirit are store managers Mark Witham in Centralia and Tony Lyons in Chehalis.
Mark is a Chehalis native and started working at the local Les Schwab when he was 19, starting out in sales and service. The company has always maintained a promote-from-within philosophy and everyone, including the president of the company, started at the bottom.
“Our supervisors all know the ropes of the different jobs because they have been there,” explains Mark.
It’s through this promotional system that mutual respect is fostered throughout the company. Each team member starts on the shop floor and works their way up. Managers remember well where they started, as Mark and Tony do, and are able to mentor younger employees as they grow with the company.
Mark, as a manager, knows this well. He was promoted after 12 years in the Chehalis store to a manager position in Puyallup, however, he was looking to return to his Lewis County home. Ten years ago, that opportunity presented itself and he’s been at the helm of the Harrison Avenue store ever since, tallying 26 years so far with the company.
Chehalis manager Tony Lyons has a similar story. A native of Toledo, Tony began working part-time at Les Schwab’s Longview location at age 17 as an after-school job. He worked his way through the ranks for three years, becoming assistant manager, and transferring to the Ferndale store at age 21. Seeking to return to his southwest Washington roots, Tony transferred back to Longview for six years. When a manager position opened in Portland, he took it. After eight years leading teams in Portland, he returned to manage the Chehalis shop in January 2016 and is excited to work together with Mark to build the companion stores serving Lewis County.
While the stores are known for a wide selection of tires and industry-leading warranties, Les Schwab isn’t all about tires. The company offers services for brakes, shocks, struts and more. Because of the technicians’ familiarity with car undercarriages, they often catch issues that can get overlooked in a more comprehensive repair shop.
One of the more popular services offered, particularly important during the summer-time road trip season, is the Pre-Trip Safety Check. This service, valued at $60, is offered for free and includes a comprehensive inspection of your vehicle’s tires, brakes, alignment, front end, shocks, or struts and battery. No one wants to get stranded on a lonely stretch of highway with a flat or to be headed down a mountain pass when brakes fail. Make an appointment or stop by either location and make sure your car or truck is trip-ready.
Both managers emphasize their goal at both Les Schwab stores is providing honest, fair and professional service. Mark and Tony train their teams to talk with customers about the different issues they find with their vehicles as well as sharing when the problem falls outside the Les Schwab sphere of expertise. Giving a referral to another local repair shop when other issues are discovered is just standard practice.
Part of the customer experience is also education. Les Schwab team members don’t simply repair your car, hand you a bill and send you on your way. They are committed to educating each customer on what services their car needs and why. Each team member explains to the customer what is happening during the appointment, making them a part of process. This focus on education allows them know, going forward, how to better understand and maintain their vehicle.
To better facilitate this communication between technicians and customers, Les Schwab has outfitted their stores with comfortable waiting areas complete with Wi-Fi, hot coffee, tables to set up your laptop and their signature free popcorn.
“When the customer is in the waiting area, it’s much easier for us to ask them a question, explain something or update them on our progress,” Mark shares.
Hitting the open road this summer? Noticing the tires are looking a bit bald? Or just want someone to take look underneath and let you know how your tires, brakes, shock or struts look? Swing into the Centralia or Chehalis Les Schwab Tire Centers where they offer a free assessment of your vehicle and excellent value on your repair.
The Les Schwab motto is “doing the right thing matters.” And to Mark, Tony and their teams, it truly does.