Henise Tire gets a re-tread before third-generation takes the wheel

5 min read404 views and 36 shares Posted September 12, 2019

Henise Tires is a local business founded on the idea of re-treading worn tires, making the old new.

So, it’s fitting that the business that started in the one-time, one-room schoolhouse by the name of ‘Sunnyside’ has recently undergone a massive renovation. The time simply had come for a new tread of rubber.

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Henise Tire’s recent overhaul of its 558 East Penn offices in Cleona was a great way to honor the past while laying down traction for the future.

Late last month, the company unveiled the renovation of its original building – the old Sunnyside Schoolhouse – to the public, by way of an open house.

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A dramatic evening shot of Sunnyside School as captured by Joe Stima.

Although Henise Tire has under gone considerable growth and numerous additions over the past 60-plus years, Sunnyside represented the first time that the local business tackled a renovation.

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Henise Tire was founded by Frank Henise in 1957. The enterprise is currently owned by Dave Henise, but it’s about to become a third-generation business.

A 1960 advertisement in the Daily News for Henise Tire Service, then just a few years old.
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“People were looking for ways to save money on tires,” said Marjorie Henise, Frank’s daughter and Dave’s sister, about the beginning of the business. “People who used tires a lot were looking for cheaper ways. Putting new treads on them was one of the ways. My dad always took the approach, ‘You don’t move until you have the money to do it.’ He wasn’t a borrower. Each generation lives within their time period.

“He would’ve been proud of this (the renovation), for sure,” said Henise. “He would’ve been all for it. He always liked doing this kind of thing. I wish he was here to see it.”

A look at the renovated school room in the one-room, one-time Sunnyside School.

In some ways, Henise Tire’s renovation of the Sunnyside Schoolhouse – its current headquarters – was just a natural evolution of the business. The project began in early 2018 and was completed in August of this year.

Office spaces were created where students once learned the three ‘R’s – reading, writing and ‘rithmatic’. Priority was given to maintaining the building’s integrity, and salvaging and re-using as much of its original construction as possible, including windows, beams, even the old chalkboards.

“It’s an attractive renovation. It’s just gorgeous,” said Henise. “Where they could, they saved the original features of it. They preserved as much of it as they could, or they moved it to somewhere else in the building. They really did their best to make sure the schoolhouse remained as similar as they could. I have such strong memories of walking into that schoolhouse when my dad first started the business there.

“Nobody had to do it,” Henise continued. “It could’ve stayed the way it was. It was never a dream of my father’s. It was a dream of my brother’s. After my dad passed, Dave mentioned renovating the schoolhouse, and I thought it was a great idea. It creates the potential for future growth.”

Sunnyside stopped functioning as a schoolhouse around 1954. The building sat vacant for a few years, until Frank Henise purchased it in 1957.

Modest beginnings, to say the least.

“He bought that schoolhouse when they built a new one,” said Henise. “He would re-tread in the basement. Then he kept adding on. He saw an opportunity in Lebanon to do re-treading. He just decided to go out on his own. He had been working for a company in Harrisburg and he had done some work with Lesher (trucking).

“He saw an opportunity in Lebanon to do this kind of work,” added Henise. “The price was right. He had no money to get started. No one was buying the schoolhouse. He was from Cleona and grew up in Lebanon County.”

That was 62 years ago. Since then, Henise Tire has added retail space, storage, and a warehouse to its original property.

A provided photo showing the development of Henise Tires, founded in 1957. The school had been vacant a few years when Henise took it over.

Henise Tire now also operates locations in York, Allentown, Watsontown and Bensalem. Included in the the services it offers today are state inspections, wheel alignments, brakes, shocks and struts, and of course, new tires.

“I have a lot of pride in it,” said Henise. “Being the daughter in a family-owned business, you see first-hand how hard someone works. My father lived and breathed that business. He did it because he loved his family. He wanted to provide. I’m also proud my brother took it over. It’s a great business.

“For us, it’s a family-run business. We kept it going,” Henise added. “My dad brought my brother up in the business. He (Dave) always knew he wanted to take it over. It was always known. My dad was very hands-on with the transition. He always made sure it was run a certain way. He had respect for the community. It always had that community feeling. To me, that’s the key to its longevity.”

Currently, Dave Henise is semi-retired. He is in the process of turning the business over to his daughter, Julie Henise Smyth, and son-in-law Sean Smyth.

Dave and Irene Henise pose during a recent open house of the Henise Tire offices.

“They went to Dave and said, ‘We know you’re winding down and we’d like to take over the business’,” said Henise of the Smyths. “One of the last things Dave wanted to do was renovate the schoolhouse. It provides a new space for the tire business. All the business’ office space is in that building.

“It (the business) has undergone a lot of upgrades, but never to the schoolhouse,” added Henise. “It was deteriorating. But each phase of the business was a sign of the times.”

Because it’s important to remember where one came from.

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