Mark Rochefort has been around the automotive industry his entire life. At a young age in November 1982, his father, Bob Rochefort, formed Vermont Tire and Service. Vermont Tire and Service grew fast and expanded to two retail locations in Montpelier and South Burlington Vermont. Now vice president of Vermont Tire & Service, Mark also is the owner and president of Vermont Tire and Wholesale; a part of the business that didn’t thrive until he became involved.
“I grew up in the wholesale side of the business unloading trucks, and as soon as I got my license, dad stuck me in a box truck to drive around,” says Mark. That was the area that I was always focused on and most comfortable with. When I came on 18 years ago and we grew wholesale from basically, nothing to now, it’s 80% of our book of business.”
He did not originally plan to work for the family business. In fact, out of college, he landed a job that corresponded with his degree in Computer Animation with a minor in Art History. After years of late nights and making a career out of doing VFX work for commercials, game design and adjunct instructing at Northeastern University, he was burnt out.
“[When] you leave work at seven at night, people look at you funny,” says Mark. “I was getting burned out because that’s the industry, that’s the lifestyle.”
Mark knew there was more opportunity back home with his family’s tire business. So, 18 years ago, he took the step to become more involved and asked his father to join the business. Mark was determined to bring the skills he learned working for his father’s business as a teenager along with his college education into his new position, president of and own Vermont Wholesale. It took him no time at all to get acclimated into the industry, as he immediately joined the New England Tire & Service Association – which he eventually became president of from 2015 to 2017.
Mark applies his knowledge and forward-thinking abilities to decrease the environmental damage in the tire industry, something he says has been a major issue through the years. He says Vermont Wholesale Tire and Vermont Tire & Service do all they can to help improve the environment, including being heavily involved in Green Up Day and Earth Day. He says on these holidays, employees clean up the rivers to find any tires, document what they are and where they were from and dispose of them for free.
“We wanted to be in control of the narrative because our industry can have a better reputation,” says Mark. “We believe that our industry is doing a pretty good job these days and every time we’ve cleaned it up, it’s harder to find a tire in the river that’s newer than the ’70s.”
You can’t talk about environmental impact without talking about EVs. Though Mark is confident that Vermont Tire and Vermont Wholesale will adjust well since most of their services involve tires – he says the industry overall may be slipping behind.
“This is a really interesting time with the proliferation of EVs,” says Mark. “I think it’s going to radically change [the tire industry’s] business models. I think we’re going to go through some growing pains as an industry because with active driving assistance [ADAS] in vehicles, you can’t necessarily just adjust suspension, because it needs an alignment. [EVs] are designed so that, if it’s out of alignment, there’s something that needs to be replaced. Just adjusting it is going to throw off those driver-aid systems. Moving forward, we’re entering a time where bread-and-butter stuff, like oil changes, is going to go away.”
Mark says that as electrification becomes more prevalent, access to vehicle data will be more vital than ever. He says that the hot-button Right to Repair topic is important to support if you are in the auto industry and desire to evolve with it.
“Right to repair [is becoming] even more important moving forward. We definitely need access to [vehicle data]. It’s going to become more common where we’re going to have to hook in and program the cars to even adjust or change basic things.”
The bread and butter of the tire industry may slowly be going away, but at least we can be confident that Mark will provide the wine. That’s right, Mark and his wife own their own personal vineyard. It may only be an acre of land, but he says it’s good to generate several hundred gallons of wine if they wanted to. And, since his wife was the head winemaker for another local vineyard previously, you know it is delicious stuff.
“Two years ago, we had our first harvest, where we pulled the grapes, and then we experimented with three different yeasts, to see what we liked best,” says Mark. “Then, last year we ran with one yeast and we’re still playing around and getting that dialed in, but it’s a lot of fun.”