Holmes Tire closes after nearly
90 years in business
February 27, 2015 2:30 pm • By Barry Adams | Wisconsin State Journal
Former employees stopped by for hugs. There were handshakes from longtime customers and even a few tires to change. They also were careful not to devour too much of the rum cake dropped off by a well-wisher.
After nearly 90 years in business, Holmes Tire & Automotive, 73 W. Beltline, closed its doors Friday, putting a wrap on a family business founded when a new Ford Model T could be bought for $350, or a little more than the cost of two new tires today.
The Madison market is filled with national tire chains and a shrinking number of independent shops like Comstock Tire & Auto, 2413 S. Park St., and West Towne Monona Tire, 453 S. Gammon Road. The retail business has been strong for Holmes, but in recent years there has been a marked decline in work servicing fleet vehicles and serving car dealerships that now sell tires.
“Our best customers became, indirectly, our competitors,” Tom Holmes said. “We just kind of lost them.”
The Holmes family business was founded in 1926 by Tom’s grandfather, Frank, who realized a need for tire repair in the relatively young automotive industry. Tom’s father, George, well-known in Madison through his rodeos and “Let George do it” ads, ran the business from about 1950 until 1989.
The business started Downtown on Main Street, moved to East Washington Avenue and later to Syene Road, where a tire retread plant was constructed. The business moved to its current location in 1969, a few years after the Rimrock Road crossing at the Beltline was converted to an interchange.
“We’ve had a good run,” Linda Holmes said. “I think it will be weird in a couple of weeks, but we’ve been just so busy right now.”
Linda met Tom while she was selling electronics at American TV & Appliance in 1977. She married into the family business in 1981. Their children, Casey, now 31, and Amy, now 28, were both nationally recognized in rodeo – Amy in barrel racing and Casey in bronco riding.
Tom and Linda, both 60, are now in the process of selling the building and the land that has housed their tire business but declined to say who will buy the property. The closing is scheduled for May on the property that is just over an acre and located on the south side of the Beltline on a frontage road east of Rimrock Road and a few doors down from Badger Bowl. Over the next few weeks, they will also clean the shop and offices and sell equipment like hoists, jacks, strut presses and tire changers.
The couple plan to spend more time with their two children and two grandchildren. It also will allow Tom Holmes to spend more time competing in cutting competitions and raising his horses on their 100-acre town of Oregon property.
Holmes has held only one other job. While in college at UW-Madison studying meat and animal science, he worked for a summer on a Montana ranch. Otherwise, it’s been nothing but plugging and patching, rotating, balancing and selling.
“It’s just time,” Holmes said. “I was more resistant than Linda (on closing) because this has been my life. Now maybe I can be a cowboy.”