Ok Tire and Auto Service, or Darling Tire Ltd., has been a family owned and operated business here in Lake Cowichan since 1975.
Dave Darling officially took over the business in 1990, but he worked with his father, Earl, since the business opened. In 1994 the business became an OK Tire franchise.
“We were independent and saw the need in strength in numbers,” said Darling of the change. “And you know, there’s obviously things that corporations can do for you that small family businesses can’t do.”
At the time that Darling Tire joined the OK Tire, the chain had 125 stores across the country.
“We are now the largest chain of independent tire stores in Canada with over 270 stores,” said Darling.
Originally opened to service the forest industry and residents in the area, the business was a one-bay shop built by Matz Johnson.
“Who was Ted Johnson’s father, everybody knows Matz,” said Darling. “Originally a bunk-house in Jordan River, it opened in 1962 [as a tire store].”
Darling says the shop was run as a tire store only, until 2004.
“Then, with all the changes in the forest industry, I saw the need to diversify. I reinvested to now do full automotive service,” said Darling.
At this time, Darling added two more bays to the garage.
“Part of the problem of running a small operation, for small business in a small market, is staying modern with new technologies and we are continually re-investing in new equipment,” said Darling.
Recently he has added brand new state of the art alignment equipment and diagnostic equipment, as well as new tire machines and balancing equipment.
The building is also currently undergoing renovations, which Darling expects to be finished by the end of November.
“We are renovating inside and out to update to the new corporate image,” said Darling.
He also says he is always optimistic, and despite the slow economy, has long-term plans to expand to five bays, and build a new office showroom before he retires. As the economy improves, he also hopes to return to being open six days a week—currently Darling Tire is not open on Saturdays.
However, even with all of these upgrades and renovations going on, Darling keeps his roots firmly in the community, and, following in fine family tradition, has been an active member of the Cowichan Lake communities for many years.
“Earl [Darling’s father], in 1984, went into local politics and became a two-term alderman, and two-term mayor and retired in 1996,” said Darling.
Darling himself has been been in Lake Cowichan since 1975, he and his wife have raised four children here.
“I am a past president of the Kinsman Club, I’m a past Lake Day’s chairman (1983), my wife is a past Cowichan Lake Skating Club chairman and continues to work with the club and has been in the club for over 25 years,” said Darling.
He is also a 30 year member of the Mesachie Lake Fire Department and is currently the chair of the Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission, he chair of Area F Parks, “and I was honoured to be asked to be Ian Morrison’s alternate director for Area F.”
For more information, or to book an appointment, call Dave at OK Tire and Auto Service at 250-749-6614.