Stuart “Stu” Zurcher — longtime Indiana tire dealer, founder of the Strategic Alliance Group and former member of the Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) board of directors — died March 13. He was 72.
“Stu Zurcher was an enthusiastic TIA leader, a caring mentor and a long-time supporter of the TIA training programs,” TIA CEO Roy Littlefield said. “He will be greatly missed by his many friends in the tire industry.”
Zurcher studied sheet metal development at International Harvester‘s apprentice school and earned associate’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) and the Indiana Institute of Technology. He also served in the U.S. National Guard.
He founded Zurcher Tire of Angola Inc. in Angola, IN in 1974 and managed the business until 2001.
In 2007, Zurcher and tire industry veteran Norm Gaither founded Dealer Strategic Planning Inc. (DSP), the tire industry’s first 20 Group. DSP organizes 20 Group meetings for tire dealers to share best business practices.
Zurcher sold his share of DSP to Gaither in 2011 and started the Strategic Alliance Group, a 20 Group company targeting commercial tire dealers. He was president of the company, which offers tire and automotive service dealers the opportunity to share best practices and financially compare against industry trends to improve profitability.
Zurcher was known for his dedication to education and training for the industry. He served as chair of TIA’s training and education committee.
“I worked with Stu on educational projects within the tire industry and was impressed with his dedication to the long-term health of independent tire dealers across North America,” said Brian Cruickshank, director of the University of the Aftermarket at Northwood University. “No one was more concerned about their success than Stu.”
Rick Guirlinger, a partner at Schwartz Advisors, met Zurcher at a Tire Leadership 21 program at Northwood. Zurcher and other tire dealers collaborated with the university to create a program aimed at cultivating future tire dealership owners and managers.
Zurcher provided him “invaluable information about the tire buisness,” Guirlinger said.
“Stu was instrumental in promoting and forming 20 Groups in the tire industry for the betterment of its owner/operators,” he said. “His commitment to sharing best practices in a collaborative environment assisted many commercial and retail businesses strive to reach their potential and challenge each other to achieve improved results and outcomes.”
Survivors include Zurcher’s daughter, Lesli; and a grandson.