See how Les Schwab Tires overhauled a West Seattle eyesore

(Photos by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If all goes as planned, the empty shelves in the photo above will be filled with tires by this time next Tuesday – the day Les Schwab Tires hopes to open its new West Seattle store in The Triangle.

The shelves are in the basement of the one-time Huling Brothers (and briefly Gee) building on the southwest corner of 38th/Alaska, and will hold most of the 2,200-plus tires to be offloaded early opening-day morning by dozens of Les Schwab managers from around the region, after two tractor-trailer trucks roll up from the company’s distribution center in the central Oregon town of Prineville, right onto the new concrete:

The initial-stocking operation is “an amazing thing to witness,” smiles Rich Baalman, area manager for 43 stores including this one, from Federal Way to Port Angeles to the Canadian border. (He himself is based in Monroe, where he also manages that store.)

Though Rich calls the West Seattle location – the plan for which was first reported here, back in January – a “paint-and-go” shop, much more than paint has gone into it over the past four months of construction. It’s spruced up what was a neighborhood eyestore with major remodeling – which even extends out onto the sidewalk and beyond. See for yourself:

On the east side of the half-century-old building, Les Schwab has planted new trees, and is redoing the sidewalk and driveway, which will be an entry way into the service bays on that side. But take note – the folks across 38th might be headed out in a hurry now and then:

That’s Fire Station 32, home to Ladder 11 and Medic 32 as well as Engine 32. “We love having the fire department as neighbors,” Rich says. But let’s back up a bit. Meet store manager Paul Howell – who transferred from Midvale, Utah – and assistant manager Mike Nestor, who came from Kent:

Rich notes that Les Schwab has a strong internal-promotion ethic (and employee profit-sharing, based on performance at the employee’s location, not companywide). Paul and Mike will be leading a 10-plus-member staff. If you need to talk to management, you’ll find Paul’s office right up front, next to the service desk, inside the main building, where counters and the computer system are now in place:

The windows, flooring, even ceilings have all been part of the renovation. The built-in shelves right below the windows were about to get some tile work while we were there.

The customer waiting area is nearby – and it’ll have wi-fi, Rich assured us (though they hope you won’t be waiting too long – their goal, he says, is 30 to 45 minutes for tires, for example). Computers also figure into the operation behind the scenes:

That equipment will comprise a kiosk in the employee room, to be used for training, including video-viewing and tests. Back in the customer-service realm, there’ll be a computer program to show you how your vehicle might look with certain types of wheels/tires. Then, there’s the technology that actually is deployed for installing and servicing them:

The eastern bays will focus on alignment and brakes. Some of that will be done in the western bays too, where the gray racks in the background are for the tire/wheel work:

Back to the exterior – they fixed up the west side too, but left the quirky little “flower” molds that turned out to be functional as well – note the added surveillance cameras:

And the alley running along the south side is now paved, with windows on that side of the building covered – not just a security issue, but an issue of insulation to save energy, Rich noted:

They’ve also added what Rich called a “state of the art” HVAC system, for use as needed. Once it’s up and running next week (again, they’re hoping for Tuesday, provided all goes well), the official hours will be 8 am-6 pm Mondays-Fridays, 8 am-5 pm Saturdays, but Rich says if you’re there a little early – they’re bound to welcome you in. They’ve striped the lot to the west for parking:

Les Schwab has almost 400 stores around the West, and Rich says it’s the only company he’s ever worked for, going back a quarter century:

You’ll see him out there with his area managers next week, when the tires arrive; other inventory is scheduled to get there sooner.

29 Replies to "See how Les Schwab Tires overhauled a West Seattle eyesore"

  • w.s. maverick October 11, 2011 (2:27 pm)

    can’t wait now I don’t have to go all the way to burien

  • Kate K October 11, 2011 (2:37 pm)

    Welcome to West Seattle!

  • Kim Nance October 11, 2011 (2:41 pm)

    How great for West Seattle. Les Schwab is one of the best ran closely held companies around!

  • Always confused October 11, 2011 (2:50 pm)

    Welcome to West Seattle!

  • GreenGuy October 11, 2011 (2:57 pm)

    I helped move out Gee Automotive from that space, as well as the other former Huling Bros buildings. I’m glad to see they are finally using that space for something West Seattle really needs! Good luck Les Schawb!

  • tires October 11, 2011 (2:59 pm)

    It looks great! And we love Les Schwab and their excellent service. Welcome to West Seattle!

  • celeste17 October 11, 2011 (3:03 pm)

    I have been watching this since July and love what they have done with the place. I just wish they had redone the sidewalk area on Alaska St. there are a couple of areas that need some attention (broken concrete where cars must have been driven over to the driveway). It looks great.

    • WSB October 11, 2011 (3:24 pm)

      Celeste – I meant to add that to the story and will do so shortly. The reason they are not yet fixing up the front is that the bus area there will be overhauled for a Rapid Ride stop, so there’s city and county involvement. Area manager Rich brought it up without us even asking – saying they would have preferred to have that taken care of pre-opening too (and mentioning the trip hazard). Be sure you’ve complained to SDOT … you’d hope it’s on their radar, as there are devoted neighborhood advocates in the area, but you can never assume! – TR

  • Lauren October 11, 2011 (3:08 pm)

    Welcome to west seattle! I have always gotten the BEST service from Les Schwab…we are excited to have you join the neighborhood!

  • CandrewB October 11, 2011 (3:14 pm)

    I go by there everyday, much improved.

  • coffee October 11, 2011 (3:42 pm)

    Just wondering, how many new jobs do they bring to our area? Thats a huge boost too!

    • WSB October 11, 2011 (4:00 pm)

      Coffee, I mention in the story, the staff of 10. (10 to 12, was the number I was given, to be precise. And if business booms, of course, they’ll hire more.) And then there was the work created by the renovation/remodeling/overhaul/etc. … And for those who are not big fans of chains, at least they are a regional chain (based in Bend, OR, distribution center still in their original HQ town, Prineville, OR) …

  • Marie October 11, 2011 (3:47 pm)

    I’ve always received good service (and tires!) from Les Schwab. I’m so happy they are in the neighborhood now!

  • Ryan Surface October 11, 2011 (3:54 pm)

    Glad to see not only that dilapidated space get cleaned up but a good business move in too and here I am in need of new tires soon…hmmmmm

  • valvashon October 11, 2011 (3:56 pm)

    How come I don’t recognize any of those tire names/brands that they carry? Oh, well, back to Discount Tire with me…

  • metrognome October 11, 2011 (4:05 pm)

    I would like to add my thanks for their repair of the sidewalks; as a manual wheelchair user, those cracks and bumps that others so easily step over can be a real problem for me.
    That location will be a RapidRide ‘stop’ (rather than a ‘station’) as there will be stations at the higher ridership locations at Alaska Junction and 35th/Avalon. Couldn’t find pics to compare stops with stations, but if you click on the vid link in the lower right corner, you’ll get the idea.

  • Diane Fields October 11, 2011 (4:08 pm)

    Love Les Schwab. So glad they are coming to the neighborhood.

  • coffee October 11, 2011 (4:19 pm)

    thanks, I somehow missed that part of the story….

  • smokeycretin9 October 11, 2011 (4:26 pm)

    Great company. I always get tires there. Plus, there is decent stuff to walk to while your car is getting worked on. :)

  • DaveB October 11, 2011 (5:47 pm)

    I hope my tires last until Free Beef Days.

  • PSPS October 11, 2011 (5:54 pm)

    The late Les Schwab was an amazing businessman and it’s nice to see his business model still going strong after his departure. He wrote a book 25 years ago called “Les Schwab Pride in Performance: Keep It Going” which is still in print and worth reading. I’ve always gone to the 4th Ave. S. store in the past and it will be nice to have them in the immediate neighborhood. The employees at Les Schwab are the most consistently service-oriented of any I’ve encountered at any company. This single fact is what made Les Schwab so successful and the largest independent tire dealer in the world.

  • dab October 12, 2011 (7:03 am)

    That looks awesome!!
    Maybe Alki Lumber will get the hint in regards to eye sores.

  • Nulu October 12, 2011 (9:14 am)

    Of note that this WSB labeled “eyesore” and the above noted Alki Lumber “eyesore” are owned by two of West Seattle’s most prominent and wealthy businessmen.

    Neither of them treat their business properties the way they treat their homes in West Seattle.

    They have both allowed their commercial holdings to deteriorate (in hopes of a big sale or lease) while remaining powerful and upstanding members of the West Seattle business community.

    Why are these properties and their owners given a by?

    • WSB October 12, 2011 (10:57 am)

      In terms of “eyesores” re: ex-Huling-site property – I may be missing something but the Schwab spot was the last one in noticeably bad shape (and while I’d have to reconsult property records, I don’t believe he actually owned that lot). While the south part of the site used now by West Seattle Produce remains empty, it isn’t in anywhere near as bad condition as the now-Schwab spot was. A Huling spot on 38th is now part of Link; the big Huling site on Fauntleroy is becoming Trader Joe’s; one of his sites on 35th south of Avalon is back in active play for a mixed-use building. The most noticeable “eyesores” in the area now belong to other people. I would informally count the empty rental spot – how many years since that vacated? – as among them, and he doesn’t own that. As for Alki Lumber, its ownership/management has been participating in the Triangle process (two reps were at yesterday’s walking tour/casual discussion), and the same family recently renovated the major Triangle ex-eyesore known as “West Seattle’s only motel.” Steve Huling also was on yesterday’s walking tour and testified at last night’s Triangle hearing (I just put up the story/video from that). Just a few datapoints (and I’ll check parcel viewer on the ownership soon as I get past one more story) … TR

  • Eddie October 12, 2011 (12:05 pm)

    “If you got free beef, you paid too much”

  • Ripper October 12, 2011 (1:45 pm)

    All right! Now I don’t have to get ripped off by Courtesy Tire, who last time I had to have new tires charged $200 per hour for labor! That’s some expensive labor.

  • Sage K. October 13, 2011 (3:36 am)

    Yay! Love Les Schwab only place I got to for tires. So happy there is one right here in West Seattle now. No longer will I need to trek out to Burien or 4th ave :)

  • sun*e October 13, 2011 (9:40 am)

    The service at Les Schwab is always top notch! I’m also so glad they are now here in WS so I no longer have to may my way down to the 4th Ave store.
    That’s great that two reps from Alki Lumber were on the walking tour. That makes me hopeful that they’ll finally fix up their block…maybe use some of that lumber to build a fence around it. :-)

  • vicki October 13, 2011 (8:19 pm)

    I will see about this LS, others have been rather rude at times and lazy. Also have not filled tire pressure as instructed. I will be most appreciative if they have someone who actually knows how to align a sports car to my specs, rather than pretending to do it or trying to talk me out of the specs.
    The Bellevue store has been good to get tires from.
    We shall see who the staff really is and how good the management is in customer service and quality.

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