Nothing shows — or tests — the love of a father quite like starting a family-owned business. Defying the odds, the Forrest family has somehow sustained their family’s business for 75 years, recently welcoming its fourth generation into the business.
Sitting in the plush, cozy offices of Forrest Tire Company with its leather furniture and elegantly rustic decor, it’s easy to forget that the Forrest Tire Company of today is a far cry from its origins in the 1940s.
On May 1, 1944, after 25 years of factory and field experience with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Elvin Forrest was eager to start his own tire dealership. There was only one problem. During World War II, the Japanese conquered the prime rubber producing nations of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies from January to March of 1942, eliminating 91 percent of America’s rubber supply. Since cargo ships were needed for military purposes, the ability to import rubber from South America was reduced. Rubber then became the first non-food item rationed and most of the tires being produced were allocated to U.S. military vehicles, which meant that government authorization was needed to sell tires to civilian customers. Local Tire Rationing Boards issued certificates for tires or recapping upon application.
After applying with the board, Forrest was granted permission to sell tires in either Carlsbad or Clovis, N.M., so he did what most logical thinkers would do when faced with an important decision — he flipped a coin. The rest, as they say, is history. Forrest’s twin sons, Dick and Bob, joined the family business in 1958 after graduating from Texas Western, now the University of Texas El Paso, and leaving behind promising NFL football careers. In the 75 years since Elvin Forrest launched Forrest Tire Company, the family business has since seen three generations of ownership, with the fourth generation on the cusp.
Generations Three & Four
Although tires are tires and they have not changed too terribly much in the last few decades, plenty of other aspects of the business have changed. For instance, can you imagine a scenario today in which a business deal — the selling of an actual business — would take place in the park over a burger and fries and commence with a written agreement on a paper napkin? It’s unimaginable in 2019. But nearly 15 years ago when Richard Forrest got a call from Jim Baker requesting a meeting with him to discuss the purchase of Baker Tire Company in Artesia, that’s exactly how it went down. The two men ordered a simple meal from Tastee Freeze, took it to the park, and began talking business. By the time it was all said and done, Forrest had a greasy napkin contract and a new location for his family’s tire business. His bank might have been apprehensive at first, but back then, even most banks knew that a man’s word was worth something and sometimes it’s best to have a little faith in your fellow man.
Advances in technology have also changed the tire business, most notably being the access to information. If you reach a ways back into your memory bank, you’ll likely recall a time when making a phone call required more work than reaching into your pocket and pulling out a cell phone. “In the early days, I’d have to find a phone to call back to the office when I was out on sales calls,” Richard said. “Then the big bag phones came along,” he laughed. “Now here we are with phones we take everywhere.”
There are other notable differences as well. “We used to call up the business owners to talk business and sales, but now it’s all corporate,” he said. “And loyalty used to be big — loyalty to your employer. These days employees just don’t stick around like they used to.”
Having spent a few decades in the family business now, Richard acknowledges the time is approaching for the baton to be passed yet again, though exactly when that will happen is yet to be determined. “The neat part is we have a fourth generation starting,” he said. “My son and my nephew are getting started and that’s pretty exciting. I want them to have the same opportunity my father gave me.”
The key to their family’s success, as well as that of their business, comes down to one word: relationship. “Our relationship with employees is important to me,” Richard said. “We have a personal relationship; everything I try to do is keep the employees in mind.” It’s something he learned from his father and grandfather, and something he hopes to pass along to the generation coming up behind him. “To be here four generations later and survive 75 years says a lot about our family,” he said. He had an uncle, Bob Forrest, that was mayor of Carlsbad for sixteen years. They all played sports and were involved in various aspects of business and community. “We are all born and raised in the area. We are all involved in the community and have tried to make an impact,” he said.
If history is any indication, Elvin Forrest’s tire empire is well-positioned to continue supporting his family for many more years to come. Though he’d likely be surprised with the advances in business and technology that have come along since he first opened his doors in 1944, he would no doubt be pleased with what his heirs have done to not only sustain his dream, but to expand upon it. The Forrest family is living proof that if not correctly, family and business can find a way to go together.