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History of Gunnell's Tire & Auto

Lamoine, David, and Ryan Gunnell
Lamoine, David & Ryan Gunnell

When Darwin was a young man working for his dad on the farm, he would run errands - which included trips to an O. K. Rubber Welders tire store for farm tire repairs. He liked the smell of rubber and the type of work the owner was doing. It was interesting and required a different skill than Darwin was familiar with. When he married and started his own family he realized the farm wasn't going support his family as well as his brothers and sisters and their coming families so he went to the tire store owner to inquire about opportunities in the tire industry. He was advised that there was a good opportunity in Mesa, Arizona for growth and success with an O. K. franchise. In 1942 Darwin and Olive and son Brent moved from Northern Utah to Mesa to begin their lives in the tire business and in the community.

With $400 in borrowed money, Darwin and Olive ventured off to Mesa with their 2 year old son to open an “O. K. Rubber Welders” tire store. Rubber went on ration soon thereafter, so Darwin would scour the town to find “junk” tires he could repair (it was called vulcanizing), so he could have used tires to sell. Within two years he purchased some re-treading equipment to “re-cap” bald tires since new tires were still in short supply. He would prepare the tires during the day as time permitted and then in the evening he would put a tire into a mold to cure (cook) for an hour, set the clock, eat lunch, put another tire in the mold, set the alarm, sleep, put another tire in, set the clock, sleep…. You get the idea. By morning he had 8 or more tires to sell than he had the day before.

Darwin’s store became “the” place to get good service and products. He grew with the town and in 1955 built a new store at 420 E. Main St. with a new modern look, showroom, tire and mechanical bays and a new re-treading plant in the back. His family grew too, adding Lamoine, Steve, Doug, Kay & Scott. Darwin also helped others get started in the tire business in Chandler, Mesa, Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Yuma. He made time to serve in his community, church, civic clubs and other organizations and in 1968 was chosen Mesa’s “Man of the Year”!

Darwin was a founder of “Big O Tires” in 1962, but over the next 40 years the franchise company (Big O) changed from a dealer-based organization to a corporate based one. So in 2004, we left the franchise and became an independent tire dealer – Gunnell's Tires.

Lamoine worked after school and during summers from the time he was 13. Lamoine worked, attended college, married, started a family and in 1969 graduated from ASU in Business Management. He and Susan have been married 46 years and have 3 children; Bob, David and Lisa, and 14 grandchildren.

Lamoine, his son David and nephew Ryan own and operate this store – Gunnell's Tire & Auto. David began working after school and during summers, learning from the ground up as a tire technician, mechanic and salesman. He is a natural mechanic and can fix almost anything. He has owned his own car audio business and has been in auto sales and management. He joined Lamoine in 1995 at this store and has a quality that people are attracted to and trust. David and his wife April have 5 sons and 1 daughter.

Ryan began working for Lamoine in 1994 when he was 16 and became an instant natural. He quickly became proficient in tire changing and auto repair. Ryan moved into sales after a couple of years and seems to know everyone (and almost everything) and has become our highest volume salesman. Ryan and wife Julie have 3 sons and 1 daughter.

Mesa has changed over the years but we have kept the same approach: good service, good products and integrity. We are thankful for the many friends and customers we have made over the years. We have served generations of Mesan’s and hope to serve generations more.

We sincerely thank you.


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