Suzy Darter reflects on decades of breaking barriers and setting standards

Suzy Darter reflects on decades of breaking barriers and setting standards

Suzy saw a multitude of successes in the tire industry by avoiding distractions and doing right by the customer.

Suzy Darter is one of those shop owners who you can’t believe isn’t yet a household name. Name an attribute typical of a successful businesswoman and Darter likely has it in spades. Her pioneering spirit, fearless resilience, and faith in mentorship throughout her career make her an inspiration to anyone hoping to grow their business – in the tire industry or otherwise.

Suzy’s tire career began when she was a high school student in 1972 at a Goodyear company store in Muncie, Indiana.

“Those were the days,” she says. “It was a company store, the days of old, and they had all the appliances and the service and the tires… I mean they had everything. I was just the young one, so I did all the little trivial tasks that nobody wanted to do. I got to be right in the middle of everything all the time. It was never my big plan to stay in this business, but it worked out.”

In the early ’80s, Suzy transferred to a Goodyear company location in Kokomo, Indiana, which was being sold to an independent tire dealer group. The store’s new owners asked her to stay, and she remained there for four years until the spring of 1984, when the owners purchased Marion Tire.

Over the next few years, Marion Tire went through several iterations of partner ownership and buyouts. Suzy and one of her mentors, Paul Zurcher, were the constants who never changed within the ranks of the company’s leadership. The store transitioned from a predominantly Goodyear Independent Dealer group to the Zurcher Tire Group and then to the Best One Tire Group.

Suzy recalls that being a female shop owner in the ’80s brought about some considerable challenges, but her determination to grow another successful business at Marion Tire motivated her to look beyond anything that might have stood in her way at the time.

“I was a female in the automotive business in a town where I really didn’t know anybody. I just had to open the door and go to work,” she says. “But I had the belief that everybody believed I could do this, so I wasn’t really afraid. This is what I wanted to do. I had a passion, and I wanted to make it work, and I knew I could.”

Last year, Suzy crossed the finish line in this industry when she decided to sell her business to another Best One member. She says one of the keys to her succession plan working without a hitch was starting early and taking a methodical approach to ensure a seamless handover to new ownership, prioritizing her employees’ and customers’ needs throughout the process.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of rule books out there to tell you how to do this,” she says. “My advice is that you need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. You don’t have to call it quits, I suppose; everybody’s different. But if you are ready, there’s a lot to do, and it’s also very emotional. So take care of yourself. Eat right, get a lot of sleep, work out – do whatever you need to do. You’re going to need that stamina to take you all the way to the end.”

Suzy Darter’s induction into Club 3633 is a testament to her lasting impact on the tire industry and honors her commitment to doing business the right way.

“I wasn’t ever a real car nut, but what was important to me is getting everybody from Point A to Point B,” she says. “To make this work, they need you and we need them. So let’s just take care of each other. That was kind of the whole analogy forever.”

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