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Spencer Brown ends a 32-year career with Les Schwab Tires, and Nate Laughery becomes manager

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Prineville Les Schwab Tire Center Manager Spencer Brown retired at the end of 2018 after 32 years with the company.

It's a story local leaders like to hear — a hometown boy spreads his wings for a bit but comes back home to manage a homegrown business.

That's exactly what Spencer Brown did, and after 22 years of managing the Prineville Les Schwab Tire Center, he retired Dec. 31.

Old friends who became his customers trickled into the tire store throughout the work day last Friday to say their farewells to Brown during an open house to celebrate his retirement.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LES SCHWAB TIRE CENTER - Nate Laughery
Nate Laughery, who has been with the company since 1994, is the new store manager. Since 2011, he has been manager of the McCall, Idaho, tire store. Before that, he was assistant manager of the Redmond and Buhl, Idaho, stores. He also worked in Bend and Salem.

Brown was born in Jerome, Idaho, but says his most important growing-up years were spent in Prineville.

Not long after graduating from Crook County High School in 1977, he got a job at the Les Schwab Production Center.

"I used to fish behind his house when I was a little kid," Brown said, fondly remembering the founder of the tire company.

Thinking the grass was greener somewhere else, Brown left Prineville and his Les Schwab job, moving to Idaho to work for Asgrow Seed. The seed company eventually promoted him to warehouse supervisor, and he moved to Washington.

"I had a brother and brother-in-law who told me, 'The company is getting ready to grow again, and you need to get back with Les Schwab,'" Brown recalls. "So, I started my career, back working at Schwab's and have been with them ever since."

That was 32 years ago.

He's worked in sales and service at a Les Schwab tire store in Boise, Idaho, and Walla Walla, Washington. He then became assistant manager in Walla Walla before transferring to Ellensburg, Washington, where he was store manager.

It was 1996 when Brown got the opportunity to move home, and he became manager of the Northeast Third Street tire store.

Over the years, he's had as many as 30 employees, but these days he oversees 22 workers.

One of his main responsibilities is to teach and build up his crew, giving them the opportunity to promote within the company. Brown lists helping promote several of his employees to higher positions within the company as some of his greatest accomplishments.

"Les said, 'How would you like to go to the best business school in the world and get paid for it?'" Brown recalls. "And that's what it was all about."

He's glad he was able to represent his company and to have been involved with the community — especially supporting the high school rodeo program, youth sports programs and the FFA.

And, he's enjoyed his 32-year career with Les Schwab Tires.

He's the type of guy who likes to start each day the same.

"From getting up early in the morning to wanting to get to work so I can get all my stuff I have to get done before we open the doors and making sure that you're running a business that people enjoy coming to," Brown said. "I think it's the people knowing that when they come in, we'll show them everything that they want to see but then we'll make a suggestion of what we think will fit their need better."

He says it's been a pleasure taking care of a lot of his old friends who have been customers over the years.

"It's been rather rewarding to know that people pick the phone up and they call Les Schwab because they know that they can trust us, and we'll tell them the truth, and they appreciate that kind of stuff," he said.

In retirement, Brown and his wife, who have four children and six grandchildren, will keep busy with projects on their 15 acres in Powell Butte for the first year or so.

"After that, we might do a little traveling here in the United States because there's places we both want to go and we'd like to experience," Brown said.

But, he said, "Prineville will always hold a special place in my heart."

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