Pacific Tire Outlet, a beloved community institution voted Best Tire Store in Milpitas 29 years in a row in The Milpitas Post, officially closed up shop in February, 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It would seem owner Phil Sweat timed his retirement to perfection, much to the dismay of his many loyal customers.
But that’s not where the tire store’s story ends. While many of those working at Pacific Tire Outlet stayed on with the new owner, Big O Tires, the lead mechanic and Sweat’s right hand man, Frank Espinoza, decided to go it alone and open up his own tire shop just a few doors down Main Street. He named the new business Great Mall Tire Outlet; it officially opened for business in July, 2020.
Opening a new business during the pandemic might have seemed to some like a foolish thing to do, but for Frank, the timing couldn’t have been better. He wanted to start off slow—to give himself time to acclimate to his new role. While he knew pretty much everything there is to know about tire repair and maintenance thanks to his 38 years working in the tire business (25 of which he spent at Pacific Tire Outlet), running a business on his own was an entirely new prospect.
For the remainder of 2020, it was just Frank at the shop, learning how to use the computer and credit card machine. “At Pacific Tire Outlet we did everything by hand,” says Frank. “Old school.” Once the business began to establish itself, he hired another mechanic, and he plans on hiring someone else once the economy picks up again. “If it weren’t for Phil, I wouldn’t know anything about the tire business,” Frank adds.
His goal is to create the same type of family-run, friendly atmosphere that customers of Pacific Tire Outlet found so appealing. “I want to bring smiles,” says Frank. “I want my customers to feel happy and safe and to know that I won’t charge them an arm and a leg. I want them to know they can trust me.”
Frank has not spent much on advertising. Customers come to him mainly through word of mouth, and many devoted followers from his days at Pacific Tire Outlet have been showing up. In the meantime, he has already garnered over 70 5-star reviews on Yelp.
Frank does miss his days at Pacific Tire Outlet, but he understands Sweat’s decision to retire. Now he’s hoping to replicate that success: “We were like a team, Phil and I. When we opened up in the morning there’d usually be a line of 10-20 customers waiting outside the door. Some of them would get there two hours before we opened. We probably did around 80-100 tires a day. The parking lot was always packed. Phil would definitely have us moving!”
Frank is looking forward to everything getting back to normal, to leaving the pandemic behind. He is eager to become the next Pacific Tire Outlet, the go-to place for tires in Milpitas. He even designed his sign using the same colors, blue and gold, of his predecessor (incidentally, the Pacific Tire Outlet sign still stands outside of Big O Tires…)
So it’s fair to say the story of Pacific Tire Outlet isn’t really over, but has rather restarted—its soul living on at Great Mall Tire Outlet. Only time will tell. But this much is for certain: Frank is moving forward with his business plans, and his goal to bring smiles to Milpitas during a time which most people would just as soon forget.
Great Mall Tire Outlet
312 S Main St.
Milpitas, CA 95035
All photos by David Newman.