The tire industry is mourning the loss of an innovator and cutting-edge leader, Larry Clinton Nicholls, Sr., who passed away peacefully on September 26th surrounded by his family. A man of vision and dedication, Larry leaves behind a legacy that transformed the industry he loved.
Larry’s journey in the tire industry began in 1962 when he joined the US Rubber Company in its retail store division. Through determination and hard work, he climbed the ranks and, by 1976, had the responsibility of overseeing 500 stores. However, Larry’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to embark on his own venture.
In 1976, Larry founded Discount Tire & Automotive, opening his first retail location in Logan, UT. His passion for providing exceptional service and value to customers quickly led to expansion. In 1977, Larry expanded to Wyoming under the name Plains Tire Co. ultimately growing it to include 14 stores. Simultaneously, he founded Wholesale Tire Distributors in 1980, a wholesale tire division serving the intermountain West. In the late 80s he developed Tire Link which allows wholesale customers to purchase tires online from their own retail location which was unheard of at that time.
In 1989, Larry played a crucial role in founding the American Car Care Centers (ACCC), along with Merchants Tire & Auto and Strauss Frank Company. He served as the organization’s first Chairman, leveraging his wisdom and vision to help independent dealers compete with major retailers while maintaining their autonomy.
A true trailblazer, Larry constantly sought out best practices from various industries, always eager to implement fresh ideas within the tire market. He introduced iPads into his service lanes, allowing technicians to provide visual explanations of potential repairs to customers through emailed videos. In 2012, Larry revolutionized the tire industry with his store of the future. He created a totally transparent experience for the customer and innovative sales process by replacing traditional counters with interactive kiosks, digital inspections, shop cameras with a video feed direct to customers, enhancing collaboration and customer experience. His tire-shopping application, Store of the Future, launched in 2010, enabled customers to browse, purchase, and schedule appointments entirely online.
Beyond his tire industry accomplishments, Larry was known for his love of golfing and hunting. He took his passion for golf and became the 27th person in the world to Golf the Golf Digest World Top 100 Golf Courses. These passions not only brought him joy but also provided opportunities to foster meaningful connections with customers and vendors, seamlessly blending business and pleasure.
Larry Nicholls’ visionary thinking and contributions have left a lasting mark on the tire industry. His legacy will inspire generations to come, reminding us to push boundaries, embrace innovation, and never settle for the status quo. As we bid farewell to this remarkable leader, we celebrate the extraordinary life and enduring impact of Larry Clinton Nicholls, Sr.
Larry is survived by his loving children; daughter Christie Stock (Stephen Stock), his son Clint Nicholls (LaNae Nicholls), his daughter Billie Nicholls-Glabe (Michael Glabe), along with his cherished nine grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren and one on the way.