When Excel Tire first opened as Revelstoke Tire Services in 1958, there were just a handful of different car tires available. Now 63 years later, there are hundreds.
“Makes it a bit tricky for stocking,” said Mark Hunter, former owner.
When Mark’s father Mickey started the business, there was no other tire shop in Revelstoke. While the business grew, the downtown location caught fire in 1967.
Don Hawker was a volunteer fire fighter at the time and said he remembers the blaze as one of the largest in Revelstoke’s history.
“We were just helpless as the building fell over onto the street,” he said.
A newspaper article said the fire department dumped 46,500 gallons of water onto the fire and damages to the property cost $55,000, which according to the Bank of Canada is more than $400,000 today.
Mickey’s other son Jay said he remembers his parents rushing to the shop when they heard the news to get important documents from the safe.
“It was a pretty crazy night.”
Jay said he heard the fire was started by an exploding coal furnace. While little of the damages were covered by insurance, Mickey rebuilt the shop and it stayed in the Hunter family for three generations. It’s one of the oldest businesses in Revelstoke.
|Newspaper article from Jan. 5, 1967 describing the fire. (File)|
Tire technology has vastly changed since radial tires were first invented in the 1950s. Studded tires become popular in Canada by the 1960s, but because they damage roads, non-studded winter tires were invented in the 1970s. Another big improvement was run-flat tires in 1979, which allowed vehicles to continue to drive up to 80 km/h for 80 km with a puncture.
Mark said tires are the most important part of the vehicle as it’s where the car makes contact with the ground.
“Good tires will decrease chances for an accident,” he said.
When Excel Tire first opened, it was strictly for tires. Now the business also includes auto repairs.
With dams, the logging industry and Highway 1, there have always been plenty of tires to fix in Revelstoke. At times, the job can be dangerous.
Mark said he was frequently called out in the middle of the night to service trucks on the highway or behind Revelstoke Dam during its construction. One time he was working on the side of the road and a semi truck drove over an impact wrench right beside him.
“It can be like the wild west here,” he said.
Now retired, Mark said he misses his customers and the conversations. Regardless, he does not miss the winter tire rush.
“It was like Costco three days before Christmas, but it would last for six weeks.”
When the first snow hits Revelstoke each year, Mark said 5,000 people would suddenly all want their winter tires at once.
“I wouldn’t even know my name by the end of the day.”
|Mickey Hunter (left) opened Excel Tire, known as Revelstoke Tire, in 1958. Previously, he lived in Prince George, but came specifically to Revelstoke to open a tire shop. No such business existed in Revelstoke at the time. Mickey died in 1983. (File)|
In recent years, the shop downtown and another in the Big Eddy, have been taken over by Mickey’s grandchildren: Ryan, Mitch and Jeremy.
“Tires is just what the Hunters do,” said Ryan.
All three of them were involved in the business from a young age. Ryan said he remembers traveling to fix a tire on a big skidder behind Mica Dam. The machine was one of the largest in the world, used to pull cut trees from the forest to be loaded onto trucks.
“After fixing the tire, the skidder chewed through eight feet of snow like it was nothing,” he said.
This spring Excel Tire will become an associate dealer of Trail Tire, which will give the Revelstoke business more buying power.
Vice President of Trail Tire James O’Reilly said his company has had a relationship with the Hunters for decades.
“My dad sold tires to their dad in 1988,” he said.
“We’re both a multi-generational business.”
The new Trail Tire signs are expected to go up this spring.
“We have big shoes to fill. Our family did an amazing job. They built a legacy,” said Ryan.
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