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Oldest General Tire Dealer in the World - Lewis General Tires Featured in Modern Tire Dealer

Lewis General Tires was recently featured by Modern Tire Dealer (MTD) for our status as the oldest General Tire dealer in the world. Read the article transcript below to learn more about our history and longstanding commitment to General Tires.

Lewis General Tires is Almost as Old as the General Brand

By Bob Ulrich
Originally Posted on MTD September 15th, 2015

Lewis General Tire in Rochester, NY

Leon Lewis Sr. received his first shipment of General tires in 1919, the year he opened one of the earliest General Tire & Rubber Co. franchises in the United States.

His dealership was only four years younger than its supplier, which had quickly made a made a name for itself by patenting the oversized General Jumbo. Lewis General Tires Inc. was the first to sell the premium replacement tire in Rochester, N.Y.

Ninety-six years later, it is the oldest General tire dealer in the world. As the General brand celebrates its 100th anniversary, Lewis General Tire continues to service customers in the Rochester area.

It also remains a family owned business. President Craig Lewis is the fourth generation Lewis to run the single-store dealership. He follows in the footsteps of Leon and his son, Richard Sr., and Richard Jr. (Craig’s father).

Even after Continental AG purchased General Tire in 1987, the owners remained loyal. Today, Lewis General Tires sells both the General and Continental brands in addition to several others.

Lewis General Tire in Rochester, NY

“They consistently built a quality product for 100 years,” says Craig Lewis, who was named president earlier this year. “You combine that with our service and we’ve got the whole package.

“They’ve always been around to handle the problems we’ve had. They’ve done their part to hold up their end of the relationship.”

Survival of the fittest

William F. O’Neil and his partner, Winfred Fouse, founded General Tire & Rubber on Sept. 29, 1915, in Akron, Ohio. Following the end of World War I, the company was still in the process of building its nationwide network of independent and franchise dealers for the General brand.

At the same time, Leon Lewis traveled to Akron, known as the “Rubber Capital of the World,” looking to partner with one of the tire manufacturers based there. As a teenager, he had left the family farm in Dundee, N.Y., and found work at Hood Tire, a small tire dealership in Rochester. By 1919, he decided it was time to branch out on his own.

Lewis hit it off with a General Tire executive, and was offered his own franchise.

“He was ambitious and he was a survivor,” says Craig.

Survival hasn’t always been easy. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Lewis General Tire merged with Scanlon Tire, a competitor across the street in downtown Rochester. According to Craig Lewis, there was not enough business for both companies to survive.

Lewis General Tire in Rochester, NY

“My great-grandfather came from nothing, and now three succeeding generations owe our livelihood to him,” says President Craig Lewis. Tim McInerney, who is married to Craig’s sister, is a commercial salesman in the business “My great grandfather later bought him out and we went back to just Lewis General Tires again.”

In 1969, Richard Lewis Sr. decided to move to Henrietta, a Rochester suburb.

“Rochester is one of those cities that experienced a massive suburban sprawl in the latter 20th century,” says Craig. “The store was built to follow the population that moved to the suburbs of Monroe County. Henrietta is directly south of the city and is right in the middle of the county with access to the major highways.

“The goal was to strategically locate a ‘super center’ in the middle of the county. We built our commercial, retail and retread operations all under one roof with enough room to grow. We kept the store downtown until the mid 1980s and then closed it.

“My grandfather had quite a bit of foresight because when he built the store in Henrietta, there was mostly farmland around us. Now it is one of the busiest streets in the county and is covered with car dealers and retail stores.” The dealership performs every retail tire service imaginable, plus complete undercar service; most under-hood services, including transmission repair; and state inspections. On the commercial side, it offers new truck and OTR tires and retreading.

With its strong ties to the past — in addition to the General brand, Craig’s father and uncle, Steve Lewis, are retired but serve as consultants to the business — Lewis General Tires continues to look to the future.


Written on Friday, December 4, 2015 by Nicole
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Rochester, NY 14623

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About Lewis General Tires

Lewis General Tires is a pillar of the community. Lewis General Tires is a leader in offering name brand tires, wheels, auto repair and brake services for customers located in and around the Rochester, New York area. Our goal is to focus on customer service. It is the foundation of our business. Lewis General Tires employs a well-trained staff specializing in the sale and installation of passenger car, performance and light truck or SUV tires. Custom wheels are available at Lewis General Tires. Special wheels and rims compliment any tire or customer vehicle. Complete under-car services, such as oil changes, brakes, shocks, struts, alignment, and transmission fluid flush for both foreign and domestic vehicles are readily available at competitive prices. Take this opportunity to browse Lewis General Tires website or call us for personalized service.