Dave Richards, President of Canton Bandag and VIS customer for 10+ years, is the son of founder Everett D. Richards Sr. Everett unfortunately passed away this July, but his spirit lives on in Canton Bandag.
The beginning of Canton Bandag
Everett grew up as one of seven children in a hard-working family. He joined the Marines when he was 17, but it was discovered he was under aged, and he was discharged. When he was 20, he met his future wife, Joy Ann Collins. After getting married, the two moved to Ohio and Everett started working in a steel mill. He then spent 18 months in Korea after he was drafted in the Army in 1951. He was honorably discharged in 1953. He returned to the mills and started a family.
In 1957, Everett was out of working during a union strike that lasted months. For income, he started refurbishing bicycles and made them look new, but that wasn’t enough. Everett’s neighbor, a Greek man named Jim Costas, asked if he knew anything about tires. Everett said he didn’t, but he could learn.
Everett was soon after hired at S&S Tire in Baberton, Ohio, changing semi tires. These tires were 20” and some 22”s. He was subbed out to Dixie Ohio Express which was across the street from Goodyear. Goodyear used DOX as a test facility due to its size and location. Everett repaired 12-24 tires each day and monitored tests for Goodyear.
One day, Everett got 4 unusual retread tires to put on a trailer for testing. He saw that the retread rubber was on top of the tire and not molded over the shoulders as he usually saw. He put the tires on a trailer going west and one didn’t last an hour until it peeled. The mate also peeled 130 miles later. The tire was brought back, but Everett noticed the other 2 stayed on and performed better than anything he’d ever seen, including new tires.
Soon after, Everett heard a conversation between the S&S Tire owners and a gentleman that was trying to sell them the very retread he tested at DOX. This was when Everett first heard the term ‘Bandag’. S&S had their own hot, mold cure system that was prevalent in those days and they were not interested in a new, untried method. Everett contacted the man, Harry Beam, to set up a shop, but he did not have the funds.
Dave Richards said he remembered Harry Beam as a Colonel Sanders doppelganger. He was very passionate about his product.
Everett found two others to partner with-Vilas March and Chris Christianson. With $1,000 each, they started Bandag of Akron in 1959.
Canton Bandag Takes Off
“Bandag? Never heard of it,” was the most common response the Akron Bandag team got when they tried to sell their product. At the time, the hot box and stainless steel bands were the methods used to cure. With great perseverance, the Canton Bandag shop started to gain a small customer base, mostly single owner and coal bucket trucks. Slowly, the word spread that Canton Bandag put out a great product.
In 1962, a financial crisis happened forcing the business to close. However, Everett truly believed in the product and found another financial backer, Carlton B. Coen. In June of that year, with $7,200, they franchised Canton Bandag Co. in Canton, Ohio. The pressure curing chamber and envelopes were a big upgrade to the retread process in the 1960s.
When current Bandag president Dave Richards was 8 years old, he started to work with his dad. Each morning, Dave would help paint the tires and prepare them for delivery. Everett advertised that he could cap any size tire and eventually, a major tire maker took him to court. It was agreed that Everett would be provided three tires to retread for the company filing to suit. These tires included a 4.10/3.50-4, a 6.00-6 airplane tire and a 6.00-23 Studebaker tire. Everett was given 1 week to return with the tires retreaded, and he did, surprising the big tire manufacturers.
As Dave grew up, he assisted his father with removing, dismounting, remounting, inflation and reinstalling tires on a truck. When Dave was 12, he could swing the ‘duck bill’ tire hammer.
Eventually, Everett purchased back the interest of Canton Bandag Co. and was soon told he had to move, so he relocated to East Sparta. Canton Bandag stayed in this location for 33 years. Everett’s wife, Joy Ann, even helped with the retreading. The men would carry the tires for her from buffer to building station and she would retread. Eventually, she moved to doing office bookwork, which she did until her death in 1996. The entire family helped with the retreading at some point. Dave’s younger brother Dan, youngest sister Kimberly, and Dave’s wife Candy, currently serving as accounts receivable, have all helped.
In 2000, Canton Bandag Co. moved to this new 24,000 sq. ft. facility. Everett designed and built a buffer that could retread even larger tires. The company expanded into new markets, such as being the only manufacturer of solid antique rubber tires in North America. Canton Bandag Co. specializes in industrial retreading of solid rubber tires, foam-filled tires and pneumatic tires, as well as semi-truck tires.
Canton Bandag Invests in the VIS-Polish
About 10 years ago, Canton Bandag Co. invested in a VIS-Polish robotic aluminum wheel polishing machine. Automated wheel polishing is a great additional service that Canton Bandag can offer customers.
“Purchasing the VIS-Polish to polish semi-truck wheels has been a very good addition to our business,” Dave said. “We are very satisfied with the VIS-Polish performance and endurance.”
As the business grew, Everett continued to come in to work with Dave until Thanksgiving 2014. On July 4 of this year, at the age of 87, Everett passed away. His legacy lives on in Canton Bandag and everything the family has accomplished.
“With Everett’s help, we have achieved a stable and knowledgeable work force that allows for consistent products and services due to the work environment here,” Dave said.
Author’s note: I’d like to give a special thank you to Dave Richards, Jr., owner of Canton Bandag, and his sister Rebecca Gross, for sharing their family stories and Canton Bandag history with me. All credit for the photos and family stories go to Dave and Rebecca. Thank you for sharing these stories with me, and in turn, all of our readers.