The Wadena Tire shop is a familiar sight to everyone who lives in the area, as well as a popular gathering place for the male half of the community. The building has a prominent spot in local history and current business.
Wadena Tire has stood on its current location for quite a while. Before Randy and Michelle Neilson took it over, local businessman Mike Sobchishin owned and ran Central Tire in that building. Sobchishin started in the tire business in 1954, when he and partner Walter Collis started WM Tire, located just south of the Legion Hall (approximately where Subway is now). Sobchishin bought the Central Tire location around 1956. Next door was his dad Stan’s business, Stan’s Day and Nite Service, which had been sold in 1953 to George Kwasnitza, who reopened it as GK Service, still operating today.
The original Central Tire building wasn’t big enough, so in his spare time Sobchishin worked on renovations. Because of them he was featured in the May 1960 edition of Goodyear News, a glossy newsletter sent out by Goodyear to its distributors. The renovation added a section, still there, onto the front.
Sobchishin took some training through Goodyear as well. In 1957 he took a vulcanizing course in Toronto. He also took a wheel alignment course, along with Fred Mychan, in Rock Island, Illinois.
Vulcanizing a tire: first, there were special bags put inside the tire. Then the vulcanizer had to be adjusted for the size of tire, and the tire put in the machine. A curved plate was put under the tire, and a cover was clamped down on top before the tire was steamed from both sides to soften the rubber.
Wadena Tire is well known around town as a location where farmers can be found visiting, a tradition that started when Sobchishin owned the place. But Sobchishin did not just fix tires in the shop. He spent a fair amount of time driving out to farms to fix a tire where it was.
“Spring was my busiest time,” he says.
Delmar Hart was his most longtime employee. They offered repairs and farm service on-site, which meant a lot of driving around to fields and farms. In the shop, they also fixed radiators, did wheel alignments and sold tires.
In 1964 Sobchishin added a Versatile dealership to his business, for two years. Following that he added Ski-Doo, selling the snow machines from 1965 right until 1980, when he sold the business.
Sobchishin credits one of the early Goodyear tire salesmen with helping him get started. However, it was Mike Sobchishin’s commitment to service and community that made him a business legend in the area.
By Charlene Wirtz
*Photos courtesy Mike Sobchishin