The Linder Story

In life, the journey is just as important as the destination. So it has been with the journey of Linder Tire that began nearly 80 years ago when Henry Linder (1909-1999) purchased a bankrupt tire business for $2800 in the midst of the Great Depression. The customer service, honest hard work and integrity he established as pillars of the business continue to provide a firm foundation for the third-generation family business.

Linder roots run deep in the local community; Henry Linder's grandparents, Anton and Anna, settled north of Iowa City in 1845 on "Lime Kiln Farm." Anton and his eight children mined limestone for lye. Some of that lye was then used in mortar to construct early Iowa City buildings such as the St. Mary's and St. Wenceslaus Catholic Churches. Henry's father Otto, farmed north of the Iowa River in an area now called "Linder Point".

In 1926, after graduating from City High, Henry began a job at Bernie Sparks Standard Tire at the age of 17. It was from these humble beginnings that Linder Tire came to be in July of 1932. Henry's purpose for the new business was to provide his customers safe travel on quality tires. Although many changes have taken place in the tire business in the eight decades since, Linder Tire remains committed to that basic standard.

During the second month of operation of his new business at 21 East College Street, the Great Depression dragged on and 11 million Americans were out of work. But even in the midst of tough circumstances, a bright spot appeared; Henry Linder hired Bill Poggenpohl. Thus began a tradition of hiring that has produced long-term employees who are considered as much family as they are co-workers. Beginning in the 1930's thru the mid 1990's, Bill and his brothers, Bob and Mike, accumulated approximately 150 years of service with the business. Although some things have changed over the years, this fact has not: current employees bring well over 300 years of experience with them to work each day.

As admirable as the large number of years of experience is to this business, there is a trait that is even more important. Third-generation Linder, John J. expresses it like this: "The number of years the employees are employed are just numbers unless it transfers over to quality treatment of the customers."

His father, John C. agrees. "We keep our customers through service. We grow through word of mouth. When our customers have a problem, they don't get the run-around; we take care of it on the spot."

This straightforward approach to customer service stands the test of time. Linder
Tire Service Inc. proudly serves fourth generation customers, farm families and local businesses. They also meet the tire and maintenance needs of a number of college students while they live and attend school in Iowa City. Relationships like these add another dimension to the term "family business." It must be more than tires that keep repeat customers from across Iowa, and the states of Illinois, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin—just to name a few—returning year after year.


1932: Linder Tire Service opens for business in March.

1937: Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company manufactured the first synthetic (petroleum-based) tire. By 1950, half of all tires produced used synthetic rubber.

1939: Henry side-mounted two tires on the front of his own car, put a third spare in the trunk, and drove to central Mexico with his new bride, Grace Kovar. The roads were treacherous, but the tires served them well. This journey was the first of many enjoyed by the couple during their 59 years of marriage. They traveled extensively on five continents and their love of travel has been passed down through the Linder family to this day.

December 7, 1941: Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. During World War II, materials were in short supply and Linder Tire's vulcanizing department operated 22 hours a day. After the war, Henry added a retread facility to his growing business.

November 23, 1945: John C. Linder, who would become the second generation to lead Linder Tire, was born. As a boy, he worked at the shop as a janitor.

1952: Hercules Tire and Rubber Company began operation. Eight years later, Henry established the Midwest Hercules Tire Group with five Eastern Iowa dealers. The cooperative, which was owned and operated by independent tire dealers, set stringent quality-control standards from its very beginnings. The mindset of the Hercules Company was maintaining low overhead, providing a good quality product and giving high value at a reasonable price. These guidelines were a nice fit for the group. Linder Tire Service, Inc. continues to maintain a strong association with Hercules Tire and Rubber Company.

1955: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.

1961: The Peace Corps was created under the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

1963: Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. The world was in the midst of change. Linder Tire and those connected with it were changing, too.

1968: John C. Linder married Marsha Wright after both graduated from Drake University. The couple joined the Peace Corps and worked three years in Fiji, in the South Pacific.

1971: John C. entered Marine Corps basic training. While serving six years in the Marine Corps Reserves, he continued his education by earning a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Iowa.

1973: After graduating from the U I, John joined Linder Tire. That same year the two-room College Street store moved to 632 S. Riverside Drive.

1975: The inventory and warehouse space were doubled and the business became an authorized Michelin tire dealer.

August 29, 1975: John and Marsha's second of three children, John J., was born. Twenty-six years later, he would become the third-generation Linder to step into the Iowa-based tire business.

1980's: Henry Linder served on Hercules Tire's Board of Directors during this decade.

1982: Linder Tire Service becomes one-half century old. This same year Linder's shop and showroom facilities were remodeled.

1983: A Linder Tire service truck was designated the oldest General Supply-designed tire truck in the country at a national tire convention in Kansas City, Missouri. All the truck's equipment was 1952 original, including the Model-A motor compressor. The General Supply Company took possession of the service truck and in return gave Linder Tire a new truck. The 1952 truck was completely restored. The company even hired the original painter to redo the commercial lettering

November 10, 1989: The Berlin Wall came down. The fall of this structure that separated East and West Germany reverberated around the world.

July 7, 1993: The major occurrence that touched Linder Tire in this decade was dealing with the Iowa River floodwaters. Considering all the events that were to happen in the first few years of the 21st century, it almost seems the 1990's were the lull before the storm, so to speak.


July 1, 2001: Linder Tire Service, Inc. expands its business and opens Linder Tire, North Liberty. The new branch of the tire business offers more engine repair and mechanical work than the Iowa City store, while continuing the long-standing focus on quality tires. Dave Kindl, who first brought the idea of purchasing the former North Liberty Tire to his 28-year employer, becomes manager of the new business.

August 4, 2001: Two years after graduating from the University of Iowa, John J. Linder returned to the United States. His time abroad had been filled by a year of employment at the University of South Wales in Sydney, and a year of travel in Asia, Australia and Europe. His father, John C. was experiencing some health concerns. His mother, Marsha, e-mailed him in England and said, "We need your help."

He returned to Iowa City to join the family tire business. There is no way he could have imagined all the challenges and changes that would be coming down the road during his first years in a leadership role.

2002: Linder Tire Service, Inc. becomes 70 years old. John J. introduces Linder Tire to the Internet by creating www.lindertire.com. "Ultimately our product is something you come to our store to have done," he said. The no-nonsense, customer-service tradition is strong in this third-generation Linder. "The price of the tire includes installation; if not, it's like going to the dentist and asking for the filling."

May 13, 2004: The business experienced a fire that was determined to be arson.

April 13, 2006: An F2 tornado roared through Iowa City that caused more than a half-million dollars of damage to the Riverside Drive store. The Linders were extremely grateful that soon after the storm passed, both employees and customers came to their aid with no request to do so. To Linder Tire, "the word community took on a whole new meaning."

2006: Linder Tire Service Inc. expands again opening its third location. Al Fenner, a life-long resident of Grinnell, Iowa, manages Linder Tire, Grinnell. Presently the Grinnell and North Liberty stores are "full-service automotive facilities," John J. said, "The only thing not done is exhaust systems."

2007: Linder Tire turns 75 years old.

April 26, 2008: John J. Linder and Sara Strain were married.

June 11, 2008: Despite almost "super-human" efforts by the staff and volunteers to erect barricades to protect the Iowa City business from the Iowa River, the floodwaters came within two feet of the showroom floor on the front side and then stopped. "The shop has heart, personality," said John J. Linder, "seeing the way the people responded during the flood and tornado put heart into the community. But it's not just a business; it's a relationship."

December 15, 2008: Just sixteen days before this year came to an end, 140 semi-trailer tires valued at approximately $30,000 were stolen from the Iowa City location on Riverside Drive. Thieves cut a large hole through several layers of tin, plywood, insulation and drywall to take four specific sizes of tractor-trailer tires.

January 2009: Linder Tire, North Liberty was expanded and modernized. It was changed from a three-bay to a six-bay facility.

February 15, 2010: Linder Tire Wholesale, a modern, well-equipped commercial and wholesale warehouse opened in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It became the fourth location to make up Linder Tire Services, Inc.

2012: This year Linder Tire Services Inc. will become 80 years young, as some say. The journey for this Iowa-based family business has been a full one and yet perhaps the best really is yet to come. If the employees and the customers have any thing to say about it--and surely they will--then the sky is the limit whether there are roads heading in that direction or not!

Compiled and edited by S.L. Green from the following sources: Marsha Linder and other Linder family members and friends and also from:

April 14, 2011: press-citizen.com by Josh O'Leary; 
Jan 26, 2008-Feb. 1, 2009: Corridor Business News by Gigi Wood;
July 5, 2007: Iowa City Press-Citizen by Deanna Truman-Cook; 
2002 Iowa City Press-Citizen: "Linder Tire Celebrating 70 Years" insert; 
Oct. 16, 2002: North Liberty Leader-No writer/reporter noted;
Oct. 10, 2001: North Liberty Leader-No writer/reporter noted;
Oct. 1994: Iowa City Magazine- No writer/reporter noted;
Aug. 12, 1982: Weekly News (Johnson County weekly newspaper) by Ken Smith (former Linder employee and 1981 UI Dept. of English graduate)

L ocally owned
I ntegrity…the foundation of our business
N ot deterred by arson, floods or tornadoes
D riven by customer satisfaction
E xcellence…a building block of our service
R eliability is part of who we are
S atisfied customers are our goal