Linder Tire Service has been a staple in the Iowa City community for more than 80 years. In the midst of the Great Depression, Henry Linder purchased a bankrupt tire business for $2,800. Through customer service, hard work and lots of dedicated employees he built a business that has since been passed to his son, John C. Linder, and now grandson, John J. Linder.
The company now has retail locations in Iowa City, North Liberty and Grinnell, as well as a wholesale distribution facility in Cedar Rapids. We caught up with John J. Linder to learn more about this third-generation family business.
What sets Linder Tire Service apart from others in the automotive service and tire industry?
We really try to focus on meeting the customers’ needs. As opposed to just selling the tires that have the greatest new technology, part of our job is to determine which of those products will actually meet the needs of our customers. Although tires are pretty simple in design they are pretty dynamic in nature. Because if you think about it they’re the only part of the vehicle that’s touching the road. You can have the fastest and most powerful car, but if the tires don’t stick to the road, hold traction or do exactly what they were designed to do, your car is no more than a big engine and nice piece of equipment that is stuck in one place. If we look out for and take care of our customers’ needs then that’s the biggest service we can give them. After all – there are a lot of people out there who sell tires, but what separates us from them is that we have the tools and knowledge necessary to truly serve our customers.
Did you always imagine yourself taking over the family business?
Not really. I was always told by my father that I was welcome to join the business if I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. I spent a year living and working in Australia and came back home the long way through Asia and Europe. During the trip, my father was recovering from prostate cancer surgery and since we had just opened the store in North Liberty things got really busy and they needed my help. I returned to Iowa, started working at the shop and have been with it ever since.
80 years is a long time to be in business. What has changed in the industry in the years you’ve been in operation?
When my grandfather was running the business there were maybe five to six different tire brands and sizes on the market. I ran a report back in 2012 that revealed that Linder Tire Service sold 197 different kinds of car or light truck tires. There are simply much more different sizes and brand offerings available now. Of course the tires themselves have changed, too. We’ve seen the development of speed and performance ratings, the development of winter tires and now, the emergence of ultra high-performance tires designed to fit every condition. Things are constantly changing.
What do you like about banking with MidWestOne?
My grandfather switched to MidWestOne back when it was still Iowa State Bank and that bank opened its doors. One of the things we appreciate most is the service we receive. One of the nice things about our relationship with MidWestOne is that I don’t have to be a banker. As our industry continues to evolve, my team and I have to learn more industry-specific knowledge every day. The same is the case for the bankers we work with. We have a relationship that has stood the test of time. I know that we can trust their advice and there is real security in knowing that I don’t have to double check to make sure things get done the right way. I know they’re looking out for our interest.