Becker's Tire Service building destroyed by fire

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By Brian Sweeney
The building housing Becker’s Tires Service in Grand Gorge, one of the area’s best-known businesses, was destroyed in an early morning fire on Friday.

The blaze at the sprawling structure, located adjacent to Route 30 at the entrance to the hamlet, was called in to Delaware County 911 at 12:17 a.m. By the time firefighters began arriving, flames were sweeping through historic building that served as home to Becker’s Tires for more than 40 years.

For the past five years, the business has been owned by Rick and Machelle Haight.
Firefighters battled the inferno throughout the night, but there was no chance to save the structure. The majority of the building was constructed of block and traced its origins back to the early 1900s as the home of Sheffield Creamery.

Delaware County Emergency Services Coordinator Rich Bell said the fire rapidly spread and engulfed the building. He estimated that between 15-20 fire companies from several counties were involved either at the scene or providing standby assistance.

Shipment burned
Mr. Bell said that Becker’s had recently received between 1,500-2,000 winter tires. The new tire shipment was destroyed, along with about 1,000 other tires stored inside and outside the building. The fire also claimed all of the company’s equipment and two service trucks.

Mr. Bell said his department’s investigation resulted in an “undermined” cause for the fire. He said the fire likely started in the vicinity of the office and was possibly electrical in nature. The fire is not considered suspicious, he added.

Mrs. Haight said on Monday that she and her husband are exploring places to set up temporarily until they have a better idea of a long-term plan.

Back in business soon
“It will probably take us a week to get everything figured out and then another week or so to get back into business,” she explained. “We won’t have the inventory that we had, but we can get them (tires) quick enough.”

Mrs. Haight said that they still have the use of one road service truck that her husband had taken home on Friday. In addition, an adjacent metal building utilized for storing farm tires was not damaged. She said that clearing out the farm tire building and operating from that space is one plan under consideration as a short-term solution to getting back in business.

She indicated that the company, which has eight employees, was covered by insurance.
In the wake of the tragedy, Mrs. Haight said that she and husband have been overwhelmed by community’s reaction.

“We want to thank everyone — and all the volunteers — for their tremendous support,” she commented.

Former owner Ken Becker told the News that the original concrete portion of the building measured approximately 120 feet long by 60 feet wide and was two stories high in the front. The building had been expanded several times with wooden additions. Mr. Becker said that a fire in the 1950s had partially destroyed one of the additions, which was later rebuilt.

Started in feed business
Mr. Becker said that his parents, Paul and Virginia, opened Becker’s Feed Store in 1949. It was a decade later when they added tire sales as a sideline business. The company moved to the former creamery building in 1968. That was the year that Ken joined the business, operating it with his mother, while Paul Becker continued his employment in the feed business.

The company continued to sell a limited amount of feed for a year or two, but eventually turned all of its attention to tires. Becker’s Tire Service became a key supplier of tires for the farming industry, covering a territory that included Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Becker said that providing tires for large vehicles remained a significant portion of the business, even with the decline in farming. He pointed out that supplying tires for backhoes, skid steers and other big equipment has helped to fill that void. The company also is one of the region’s largest suppliers of tires for passenger vehicles and trucks.

Mr. Becker retired about a decade ago and his daughter, Luann, ran the business for several years before current owners, Rick and Machelle Haight, purchased the operation in 2008. Mr. Haight had been a longtime company employee before taking over.