September 24, 1933 - February 13, 2023
Larry Rhodes, who started the iconic Five Points Tire in Redwood City in the 1960s, died Feb. 13 at home, after several months of illness. The longtime Redwood City resident was 89. Well after he sold the business, Rhodes had stayed on part-time at the tire shop out of which he had developed friendships almost as important to him as his large blended family.
Born in Colorado in 1933, Rhodes grew up in Longview, Washington, where two of his passions-sports and cars-took root. While in school, he saved up to buy his first car, a Buick. At R.A. Long High School, he lettered in varsity football all three years, went on to play in the all-state team and then to the University of Washington Huskies, on a full athletic scholarship. In 2019, he was inducted into his high school alumni association's Hall of Fame in recognition of his football record and business success.
A UW graduate with a degree in economics, Rhodes was hired by Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in 1957. He held several jobs in various locations in the U.S. tire industry before deciding to go out on his own. In 1964, he started the business then known as Five Points Tire Imports, which offered domestic as well as international brand-name tires. Rhodes, who always modified his own vehicles to give them a unique signature, also pioneered in tire customization at his store.
Located on El Camino Real at the Five Points/Woodside Road interchange, the busy shop came on line at a time when there weren't many other tire stores around town. Rhodes relished the social aspect of whatever he did, and that extended to running a business. He enjoyed hanging out with customers to talk shop, sports, politics or whatever was on their minds, and was known to depart with them for coffee or lunch while employees held the fort.
Rhodes specialized in high-performance tires and vehicles, and owners of hot rods, classic cars and high-end Ferraris and Porsches came to Five Points for tires and service. He also implemented an exchange program with local high schools for work in tire and mechanical service.
Mark Lewman came to work at Five Points in high school and eventually became store manager. Rhodes, he says, was a generous boss who made it so comfortable that his employees stayed for decades. If an employee had a good work ethic and needed help, "He would give you the shirt off his back," says Lewman, including on occasion buying cars.
In 1992, Rhodes completed the sale of the business to Lewman under a long-term buyout. Rhodes not only worked side-by-side as a mentor, he worked part-time for a few years after the business was sold a second time, to the present owner. Attired in a shop coat and pushing a broom, Rhodes loved connecting with customers and friends.
Rhodes was a 61-year member of the Elks Lodge, a member of the Kiwanis Club and past president of the California Tire Dealers Association.
The automotive aficionado owned and restored many classic vehicles. He also collected automotive signs, photos and other memorabilia and turned the interior of his garage into an unofficial museum. Rhodes loved long-distance drives, whether to car shows or to family reunions in the Western U.S. He could hardly wait to hit the road in a customized "street rod," driven by him or by his wife, Liz Rhodes.
A gifted natural athlete who enjoyed tennis and running, Rhodes impressed on his children the importance of staying active and he modeled healthy living. Until just before he died, he went on long daily walks around town.
Rhodes was an exemplary friend who committed time to keep relationships going. He checked in by phone or dropped by to say hello. He brought lunch to elderly friends who had become housebound. A couple for 29 years, Larry and Liz had a great marriage and partnership, and at the end of his life, he was able to look back with no regrets and profound gratitude for the blessings and fulfillment he had received.
When they got married in 1998, the couple blended their families, which include Larry's three children: Ryan Rhodes of Hillsborough; Gretchen (Brian) Baker of Ladue, Mo;, and Christian (Karen) Rhodes of San Carlos, as well as Liz's three children, Gavin (Kristine) Ball of Redwood City; Ronda Nasman (Derek) of Palo Cedro; and Garrett Ball of Dunsmuir. Larry is also survived by 13 grandchildren on both sides, and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A private memorial service will be held in March. The family asks that anyone who wishes to honor Rhodes' memory contribute to a charity he supported, First Place for Youth, for teenagers transitioning out of foster care. For donation information, visit firstplaceforyouth.org.