Ken Kirby has taken over management of the Les Schwab Tire Centers store in John Day. He replaces Cork Humphrey, who retired after 41 years.

Kirby grew up in Fossil. After graduating from Wheeler High School in 1997, he spent six years at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario and then went to work for Les Schwab in Bend.

“I’ll have 21 years with Les Schwab in April,” he said.

The company has roots in Central Oregon, and the John Day store is the fifth in the corporate chain, open for business since May 1, 1957.

Les Schwab was born in Bend in 1907. He founded the tire company shortly after he bought OK Rubber Welders in Prineville in 1952. That little tire shop grew to a chain of 488 stores by 2018 operating in eight states with more than 7,000 employees.

Schwab died in 2007. The company moved its headquarters from Prineville to Bend in 2008. The company conducted more than $1.8 billion in annual sales in 2018 and was the second largest independent tire retailer in the U.S.

The company is well known for hosting sporting events and sponsoring charitable programs. The 23rd annual Les Schwab Invitational basketball tournament featuring NBA stars was held in December 2018 in Hillsboro.

“We like anything to do with youths,” Kirby said.

Locally, Les Schwab has partnered with the Oregon FFA for the Drive Away Hunger food drive, hosted the annual Icebreaker Tournament for high school baseball teams, offered a rifle to the winner of the Big Buck Contest and co-sponsored a tractor pull at the county fairgrounds.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at or 541-575-0710.

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