Four decades ago, Christine Croucher was pumping gas for a nickel a gallon at her full-service gas station in small town Pennsylvania when she received a simple offer.
“An old man named Hank would come into my gas station every Friday with a pile of old tires on his truck,” Christine recalls. “He’d always tell me I should sell used tires, and I’d think to myself he must be crazy, so I told him I’d think about it.”
But on one of Hank’s routine visits, he offered Christine a free used tire machine with the purchase of his load of used tires. From there, a business opportunity emerged.
“How could a girl resist? It was an old Coats 1010 machine,” Christine says.
Thanks to Hank’s persistence and Christine’s knack for fixing cars, Christine now owns Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire Service with two locations in northern West Virginia, just over the Pennsylvania-West Virginia state line. However, Christine admits that becoming a tire dealer wasn’t an easy path early on.
In the early days, she’d purchase used tires from Hank for $2 a piece and sell them for $6.95. “I was turning a nearly $5 profit, which was a lot more than a nickel,” Christine laughs.
Eventually, Christine saved up enough money to purchase herself a brand-new tire machine.
After spending a few years selling used tires, she decided to expand her shop’s inventory when a salesman from a nearby distributor stopped by her dealership.
“I remember I saved $2,000 and spent all of it on new tires,” Christine says. “I spent my life savings on new tires, and nobody bought them. Everyone thought of me as the used-tire person. It took me a little while to get the business rolling, but eventually it turned out really well.”
After getting her feet wet with new tire sales, Christine eventually had an opportunity to purchase a piece of property in Masontown, West Virginia. So, she moved her business out of her gas station bays in Pennsylvania and opened her first official location of Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire in Masontown in 1984. She opened her second location in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 2008.
With a colorful name like Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire, one might wonder where it came from.
“When I had the gas station, there was a tavern nearby called Rainbow Tavern. It was up the road from a local park called Rainbow Gardens, so I named my gas station Rainbow Service Center,” Christine explains. “When I opened my first tire store in Masontown, I took the name with me and originally named it Rainbow Tire Service. As for the ‘Tire Lady’ part, an old gentleman would always come down and address me as the ‘Tire Lady.’ It stuck like glue, so now it’s Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire.”
Today, Christine is known as the “Tire Lady” to her customers and industry peers alike. Between both stores, Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire has a mix of 80% tires and 20% service, with over $150,000 worth of tires in stock. Each store has five service bays, and Christine employs 22 full-time staff members across her two locations.
Maintaining a happy staff and customers, as well as being involved in the community, are the foundation of her success. Christine says anything that has to do with the region’s youth is something her stores support. Tire Lady’s Rainbow Tire often donates to local class field trips, 4-H activities and even sends technicians to speak in classrooms for career days.
Overall, Christine credits her success to consistent hard work. “Make no mistake about it, you have to work hard. It is also important to take care of your staff because a happy staff equals happy customers,” Christine says. “The most important thing is to always take care of your customers no matter what. There is always a solution to a tire problem.”