Editorial: Pete’s Tire Barns owner sets an example with sustainable business model

Friday, April 13, 2018

If only every business in America could put energy conservation, recycling and other sustainable practices to work the way Peter Gerry does at Pete’s Tire Barns in Orange.

When you learn about all that Pete’s reclaims, recycles and reuses, it’s easy to forget this is primarily a regional tire business selling specialty tires and rejuvenating old ones.

The business, which is celebrating its 50th year, reuses waste products like engine oil and ground coconut shells, its 24-acre distribution center is powered by 850 solar panels, and the business as a whole saves more than $1 million each year by recycling.

“We try to be environmentally aware, and we try not to stand still,” the 68-year-old Athol native said recently.

What an understatement.

Pete’s recycles all of its cardboard, and Gerry notes that nearby Erving Paper Co. makes hospital supplies out of his company’s used white paper. On average each year, Pete’s recycles 360,000 pounds of polyurethane and nearly 500,000 pounds of rubber.

The New Athol Road distribution center, which is surrounded by birdhouses and fencing that allows for animal migration, is heated and cooled by six miles of geothermal piping — infrastructure that saves about $30,000 and eliminates the need for fossil fuels.

The retread shop makes old tires into new and is heated by used engine oil; electric forklifts eliminate pollutants; wheel weights are made from environmentally friendly material in case they fall off; re-tread tires are built with solar energy.

Gerry started Pete’s Tire Barns in 1968 when he was 18 to supply performance tires for his drag-racing buddies. Now, 50 years later, Pete’s employs 260 people at storefronts across New England, at the distribution center, and at the two retread shops where old tires are given new life.

It’s one of the largest independent commercial tire dealerships in the country.

“The business is growing, and the demand for products is coming from all over the world,” Gerry said.

His business stocks about 70,000 tires, and has made its name by supplying specialty rubber that other tire distributors don’t carry, such as 8,000-pound Cat 992 Loader tires worth $17,000 each.

On a wall in Gerry’s office, the last line of his company’s business statement reflects the sentiment that undergirds one of the things that’s so special about his business: “To be environmentally conscious, and to support our local communities.”

Says Gerry: “We can’t fill the whole earth with trash, because when that goes into the landfill, it breaks down into the ground. It goes into the water table, and people are drinking that. We need to protect our planet for future generations. We’re leaving our kids in an awful mess if we don’t do that.”

This homegrown business has demonstrated that you don’t have to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to be a successful businessman and a good steward of our world. If more businesses and industries followed Peter Gerry’s lead, the world would be a better, greener place.

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