Nancy Yerges, of Waterloo, Wisconsin, who shared this photo with Chip Brox, wrote, “Chip was a wonderful man and each time we visited Moab and did a tour with Adrift Adventures, we always requested that he be our guide. He had a way of making us feel at ease doing the Shafer Trail in Canyonlands. Being from Wisconsin, we don’t have that type of roads around here. It could get a bit scary at times, but Chip put us at ease and we had a great time. On our last trip with him, at one of the stops, he and I just sat and looked out over the landscape, and I wondered if it would be the last time he would see it and was just taking it all in for one last time.” [Photo courtesy of Nancy Yerges]

A legend in the off-road and tire industry, Chip Brox kick-started a Moab business that has touched the lives of people worldwide. He died on Dec. 4 at the age of 70.

Born in 1948 in Richfield, Brox spent the majority of his life in the field of tire service, moving to Moab in the 1960s and eventually opening Grand Tire Company at 312 N. Main St. with a partner.

In 2015, he sold his share of Grand Tire Company and retired — sort of. Known to be of the “go, go, go,” mindset, Brox soon took a new job next door, at Adrift Adventures, as a tour guide, which allowed him to park in the same parking space he used at Grand Tire Company.  

Today, Grand Tire looks much the same as it did when Brox was there. His longtime friend and co-worker, Jeff Edwards, is still the manager. He leads the same crew that Brox hired, trained and eventually considered to be his family. 

Behind the counter at Grand Tire on Dec. 11, Brox’s former employees recalled him as someone who worked hard and would give people the shirt off his back if they needed it. Edwards called him an “icon in the tire world.” Grand Tire office manager Tami Swails remembered his “dry sense of humor. He was a great boss.”

The core of Grand Tire’s employees have stayed with the business long term and many of them were quiet as they thought of Brox. The first to speak was Marcos Tavares, who has been with the company for 11 years and said the most meaningful memory he has of Brox is when he jumped to his defense in front of an unsettled customer. 

“When I went to start to jack up the car,” Tavares recalled, “the owner stepped on the jack and on me, and he asked me, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him I want to fix the tire.”

As the customer kept his foot on Tavares, he said he didn’t want Tavares to “touch” the car. 

“I went into the store and got Chip,” Tavares said. “I explained to Chip what happened. Chip looked at him and said, ‘You told me, send me your best guy to work on the car. I sent you my best guy. He’s my best guy, and if you don’t want him to touch your car, jump in your car and get down the road.’”

The customer left.

“Chip told me, when anything like that happens you come and get me. When Chip defended me, I felt better,” Tavares said. 

“He had a good balance of having his employees’ backs, but there’s that saying that the customer is always right — Chip had a great balance between those two,” Swails added from her seat at her desk.

Edwards, having grown up in Moab, said he knew Brox for “a long damn time” — a time when Edwards was barely taller than the desk he has in the business’s office. Edwards played baseball with Brox’s son, Dusty, when the two were 10 years old. He thought back to more than 20 years ago when Brox hired him.

“I had just gotten engaged and I needed a job,” said Edwards, who holds a degree in electronic engineering. “I hired on with Chip for a tire-buster job.”

Employees said Brox brought a passion to the business for teaching them the details of their jobs and the nature of their work. As each employee remembered the day that Brox hired them, they paused and smiled, each one repeating a familiar phrase.

“This is the saying: there’s the right way, the wrong way and Chip’s way,” said P.J. Peterson, who has more than a decade of experience with the company.

Shawn Dull, who has been working there for almost 18 years, explained the tagline. 

“You learn Chip’s way, the ‘right way’ and the wrong way,” he said. “It means Chip’s way was the right way because it got the job done and he knew exactly how to do the job because he’s been in the field a long time. The ‘right way’ was run-of-the-mill, if you did it right it was almost OK, but you still had to do it Chip’s way.”

Edwards quickly moved up to working as a shop foreman, which involved sales, and then became assistant manager. It morphed into all kinds of jobs from there, he said, including 13 trips to Baja California to work with a pit crew for BF Goodrich Racing.

“I would not be sitting in this chair if it wasn’t for him,” Edwards said. “You don’t learn how to do this job with a degree in electronic engineering, you learn how to do this from Chip.”

Brox had an interesting history with BFGoodrich, Edwards said, but it’s a long story that started when Brox came to Moab in the 1960s on a seismographic crew.

The first store Brox managed was at the Keller Strauss building just north of town, then he moved across town, near the 7-11 gas station, Edwards said.

“After that, Black Oil created Grand Tire Company, Inc., and built this store in 1965,” Edwards said. “He worked for them until about 1995 or ’96 when Chip had some stock in Black Oil and another one of the Black Oil family siblings joined together and gave their stocks in Black Oil to create Grand Tire Company/CJ5 Enterprises.”

Sometime around 1992, Edwards said, Brox became “very involved” with BF Goodrich tires, an effort that eventually led to the development of specialized tires for Moab’s red-rock desert.

“Year and years ago … he would tell people when they quoted them, you need to buy your tires from me, because the tires you buy from me have a special compound in the tires that works better when you go four-wheeling,” Edwards said. “As Chip grew in the BF Goodrich tire world — sales awards and things of that nature — one of the reps was telling this story at an awards ceremony and an engineer in the audience actually created a Moab edition tire that had a compound in the tire for the red rocks.”

The new tires were available in limited sizes to fit the vehicles that worked well for off-road driving.

“That’s how a lot of these tire companies that have sticky tires for off-road got started,” Edwards said. “We’ve been around here for a long time, so as Moab grew so did we.” 

Throughout it all, employees said Brox maintained a down-to-earth atmosphere with the business. He kept an old tire in the office and played a game with customers to see who could guess what was lodged inside. Dull said the game kept people stunned. Swails said he encouraged people by giving them a hint.

“He told them, as a hint, it’s something you would use everyday that requires batteries, and you probably have it sitting on top of your refrigerator and when you go to use it, it’s dead,” she said. 

Not everyone keeps a flashlight on top of a refrigerator, but for those who did guess correctly, Brox gave them a free flat-tire repair. He also accepted trades — homemade chocolate chip cookies from elderly women in exchange for a tire repair. Once, Edwards said, a man who “didn’t have one cent” showed up in need of two tires to make it to wherever he was headed, and Brox gave him the tires in exchange for weeding the fenceline. 

“If it was a mom with a lot of little kids — they come in in a panic, the kids are riled up, the day’s going horribly for them and you could feel it from behind the counter — he would give things to people that they were in need of and deserved, and he did it all the time,” Edwards said.

Brox’s legacy is still being carried out by the longtime employees he trained. 

“That’s how we learned, that’s how we were taught,” Edwards said. “There have been no new changes since Chip retired, but a couple of new faces.”

The two new employees are being taught about the right way, the wrong way and Chip’s way. 

“We still do it that way,” Edwards said. 

“It’s been a very, very successful business and there’s a reason for that,” Swails said. “We just keep on keepin’ on.”

That being said, Moab locals still call the shop “Chip’s” and the sign in front has been changed to pay homage to one of his oft said sayings: “Bless your heart.”

Grand Tire employees remember a lifetime legacy

“We’ve been around here for a long time, so as Moab grew so did we.”