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Making Decisions: Myron Boncarosky’s Legacy of Putting Customers and Employees First
More than four decades of dedication and integrity paved the way for Virginia Tire & Auto’s success.
By Tom Sileo
Early in his career, Myron Boncarosky recognized the importance of honesty and hard work while working at Texaco. He also noticed that something was missing.
“I wasn’t able to make decisions,” Virginia Tire & Auto’s Founder and Chairman said. “I had to go back and check on everything … I had to get somebody’s approval.”
The young marketing executive then saw a clear path to becoming a corporate leader.
“I always wanted to have my own business,” Myron exclaimed. “When you decide you’re going to go into business for yourself; that means you’re making all the decisions.”
After a decade at Texaco, it was time for Myron to make his first big decision when he was offered the chance to turn around a struggling Shell service station in Fairfax City, Va.
“I said ‘let me think about it,’” Myron recalled with a smile.
Even though it seemed to be the opportunity Myron had been waiting for, he was initially hesitant. But that same evening, as he discussed the offer with his wife, Carole, she reminded her husband that he’d been talking about running a business for years.
“Do me a favor,” Carole said emphatically. “Do it.”
On that night in 1976, the company now known as Virginia Tire & Auto was born.
Myron Boncarosky was born in a blue-collar western Pennsylvania town just outside Pittsburgh. He learned about hard work from his father, who worked grueling shifts at the local steel mill, and his mother, who took a job at Heinz to supplement the family’s income despite having three young children.
“One year during the war, my Dad worked seven days a week,” Myron said. “He was so proud that he made $10,000.”
Decades later, as Myron was starting his very first day as a business owner, he decided that while there’s nothing wrong with being proud of earning an honest living, money wasn’t his ultimate goal. It was following his parents’ example of always giving one hundred percent.
“My focus was taking care of the customer and the employees,” Myron emphasized. “It wasn’t profitability.”
From his first morning in charge of the Fairfax City Shell, Myron resolved to meet each and every customer and employee’s needs “no matter what,” from staying all night on Christmas Eve to help motorists through a snowstorm to giving a loan to an employee who was struggling through a period of financial hardship.
Another cornerstone of Myron’s automotive service philosophy was cleanliness. The Fairfax City store was “filthy” upon his arrival – in such bad shape that Myron didn’t want his own wife to go inside before he was able to supervise its transformation.
“I didn’t show it to her for about three months,” he said with a laugh.
In addition to fixing up and repainting the store, Myron took a series of steps that would eventually help revolutionize the automotive service industry’s sagging public image.
“I always wore a white shirt and I always wore a tie,” he said. “It really distinguished the operation … I (also) took all that clutter in the sales room and displayed it nicely, and I planted flowers.”
As those flowers bloomed, so did Myron’s reputation as an industry pioneer. With Myron and his carefully assembled team of professionals running the store and Carole managing its finances, the Fairfax City Shell exceeded even the most optimistic expectations for a Northern Virginia full service station.
Before long, Shell and Myron’s former employer, Texaco, were asking him to help turn around area service stations. It was a challenge embraced by Myron and his team, including several employees who are still with the company today.
“We were either going to be the best at doing what we were doing, or I was going to die trying,” Myron said.
After 15 years of successfully acquiring and turning around service stations across Northern Virginia, Myron made another consequential decision. He bought a piece of land in Centreville and started building his very own automotive service center.
“We became a Goodyear franchisee,” Myron said.
About ten years later, Myron was busy running Goodyear stores in Centreville, Gainesville, Chantilly and Ashburn, in addition to his service stations. It was while trying to acquire a store in South Riding, Va., that Myron, Carole, their daughter, Julie, and her husband, Mike Holmes, began exploring launching a standalone brand that became Virginia Tire & Auto.
“I told (a Goodyear executive) we’re going to be in that market, and we’re going to go our own way,” Myron said.
Through the hard work of Myron, Carole, Julie, Mike, and hundreds of dedicated team members, Virginia Tire & Auto now services thousands of customers at thirteen different locations. What makes Myron most proud, however, isn’t the company’s rapid expansion or financial success. It’s the countless people – customers and employees – he’s been able to forge relationships with during his remarkable four-plus decade journey.
“We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve been honest and fair,” Myron said. “And I’ve taken care of people, and people have taken care of me.”
After again emphasizing the huge contributions of Carole and his many loyal employees, Myron’s eyes beamed as he spoke of passing the company’s leadership torch to his daughter and son-in-law.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that Julie wanted to come into the business,” he said, while also highlighting a heartfelt letter he received from his son-in-law expressing the same sentiment. “It makes you feel good.”
Perhaps nothing could make Myron and Carole feel better than their nine-year-old granddaughter Bridget – the oldest of Julie and Mike’s five children – recently telling them what she wants to do when she grows up.
“I want to run Virginia Tire and Auto,” she said.
No matter what young Bridget ultimately decides to do in life, she will undoubtedly be guided by three principles that allowed her grandfather to become a shining example for not only those inside the automotive service industry, but all aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Number one: You’ve got to become very knowledgeable about your chosen field,” Virginia Tire & Auto’s Founder and Chairman said. “Number two: You have to be disciplined in your personal life and your business life.
“Number three: You’ve got to have integrity,” Myron said in conclusion. “And I feel like I’ve accomplished those things.”
Tom Sileo is an author and award-winning journalist who grew up in Vienna, Va. He has co-written three books about U.S. military heroes: 8 Seconds of Courage, Brothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo.