Reaching the tail end of the annual Detroit auto show, it's fitting that we make a pit stop at "Detroit's oldest factory tire supplier," Sucher Tire. The tire shop has been around for nearly a century, offering tire services to Detroiters for nearly a century.
The tire service was founded by Jacob Sucher, who immigrated from Austria. Four generations later, the business remains in the family. Currently, it has been passed into the hands of Sucher's great-grandson, Jon Sucher.
"Honestly, I never planned on doing this," Sucher, who earned a degree in communications and journalism at Western Michigan, says. "After college, an opportunity presented itself to start here, and that's what I did."
Running a tire business is a far cry from a job in communications and journalism. In a city littered with enormous potholes and bad roads, however, the success rate of a tire business is probably greater than the success rate of a job in the journalism field. With 94 years of business under its belt, it's safe to say the business is, indeed, quite successful.
Called "a barometer for road conditions in Hamtramck" by NPR, Sucher says he's had a few good years thanks to the condition of the streets and the way car manufacturers are making cars now. "You have no choice but to slam into the pothole, and the way they're making cars now with bigger wheels, that means you have smaller tires, skinnier sidewalls," he says. "It's so bad sometimes that you can't help but damage your wheels and tires."
Being the Motor City, Detroit has its fair share of tire shops, so what makes Sucher Tire the place to go after driving right into that pothole? Sucher says his family's business stands out from the rest because it specializes in factory wheel replacement. "We have thousands of factory wheels in stock; we send thousands more to various vendors in the city." This impressive wheel stock also sells for a fraction of the cost of other stores in the area. "A factory original wheel could cost six, seven, eight hundred dollars, and you can buy one from me for three," he says.
Affordable tires do make for a great advertising campaign, but Sucher says his business does not do a lot of advertising. Although it has a website and Facebook page, the tire shop primarily gets customers by word of mouth. "I've got generations of people coming in here," he says, adding, "I have people every day telling me, 'Oh, my grandfather brought my dad here for his first set of tires back in the '40s,' or 'After World War II we came here for this or that,' or 'I knew your grandfather.'"
Located off East Davison, Sucher Tire is parked on the corner of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, and it intends to stay there for as long as possible. Sucher says, "We've been here for 94 years now, we're gonna stick with it for a few more."