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After decades of re-tiring, Prendergast calls it a career PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 16:39

Longtime owner of Tires Unlimited sells Port business to gas station, auto repair shop owner

    After owning Tires Unlimited Automotive Services in the City of Port Washington for 46 years, Chuck Prendergast has decided to hand over the keys to his business this week.
    Prendergast has sold his business at 1557 N. Wisconsin St. to Steve Jones, who owns Grafton Mobil and Good Hope Service in Milwaukee.
    For Prendergast, that caps a 56-year career in the tire industry that began in 1961 when, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he managed several retail stores for Goodyear Tires.
    “Back when I first started, there were still a lot of 13-inch tube-type tires still around, which you could buy for $6.66,” Prendergast said. “Today’s tires are radial ply, which is made of far superior construction, so if we tried to equate the two, today’s tires could cost you from $75 to $100.”
    Along with the cost of the products Prendergast sells, technology has also changed over the course of his career, and keeping up with it has been a key to his success.
    “Some of the major changes have been safety, longevity and traction, which go hand-in-hand,” he said. “You have to keep up with the tires just like the car engines, and to make sure the people you have are up to date. Our technicians have to keep up with the times because the tires are changing along with the automobile. It’s ever evolving, and the changes go quicker and quicker as time goes by.”
    In 1971, Prendergast said, opportunity led him to open up Tires Unlimited in Port Washington.
    “I heard the store was available, and that’s what drove me here. I realized the big corporate life wasn’t that exciting to me,” he said.
    Just as tires have progressed over the past 46 years, Prendergast notes the City of Port Washington has also developed since he opened his business.
    “It’s amazing how Port Washington has changed since we came here 46 years ago. The north end of town was where the new people were. It’s evolved to something considerably different,” he said. “The city fathers in the 1970s loved the status quo and wanted to keep the community as it was. Now we’re working extremely hard for the tourists and they (officials) have done a marvelous job with the downtown by making it more prosperous and vibrant.”
    Tires Unlimited isn’t the only business Prendergast started in Port Washington. In 1991, he built the Quik Stop Shoppe next door to his store on Wisconsin Street.
     “I had an ugly gas station and convenience store next to me, so I tore it down to build the Quik Stop Shoppe,” he said. “A few years later, I built the Citgo on the south end of town. I owned both shops for a few years but then I began to slowly retire. Slower than my wife wanted me to.”
    When he wasn’t busy managing his business operations, Prendergast found some time to give back to the community by serving as a trustee for the Village of Saukville from the mid 1970s to early 1980s.
    “I sat the kids down and told them I was going to run again and they told me no I wasn’t,” he said. “I’ve been involved in one thing or another in the village ever since then. I served on various committees and I’m still a member of the architectural review board.”
    Prendergast is also about to celebrate his 50th year as a member of the Port Washington Lions Club.
    “If I hang my hat on anything it’s my involvement with the Village of Saukville and the Lions Club in Port Washington,” he said. “We’ve seen a great deal of changes that have been positive. Saukville and Port Washington are two great communities to work in.”
    Steve Jones assumed ownership of Tires Unlimited on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
    “I’m excited to be in Port Washington because I’ve been looking to expand,” Jones said. “I’ve known Chuck’s business for a long time and I like the way he runs things.”
    Jones said he will retain all of the 15 employees at Tires Unlimited, which is one of the reasons Prendergast sold the business to him.
    “He’s an Ozaukee County boy. He grew up in Grafton and lives in Oostburg,” Prendergast said. “I thought he would be good for the customers and my employees because he’s got a good reputation. I knew his father and I know that they’ve run their businesses in a good proper manner. He wanted to make sure I had a stable work staff that would want to stay with him.”
    Prendergast’s plans for retirement include spending more time visiting his two daughters and traveling the world with his wife Marita. The couple has visited numerous countries in the past, with New Zealand and Bali being their favorite places.         
    “There are tons of things to do in the world. My wife and I have always traveled so we’ll do more of that,” he said. “I haven’t made Africa. A river cruise from Amsterdam down to the Black Sea is on my bucket list. I’ll also go out fishing.”
    While enjoying life in retirement, Prendergast said he will keep a watchful eye on the ever changing tire and auto industry.
    “There are some really strange but neat concepts, like airless tires. The tire industry is no different than your automobile industry,” he said. “You can talk to a futurist and not believe what they say is going to happen, but the way things have happened over the last 50 years you know it’s going to happen and a lot faster than 50 years ago. You see it with the driverless car. It was a crazy concept two or three years ago and now it’s a reality. What could be cooler than being like the Jetsons?”

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