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Bulls, Deerfield Tire Share Bond

Local business has been putting tires on Bulls’ cars for years. Owner is disappointed with the team’s departure.

One Deerfield business owner who is not happy about the Chicago Bulls decision to leave its Deerfield practice facility is Garrett Garofolo.

Garofolo has personally helped and other Bulls get tires for their cars and he believes there will be less contact with people affiliated with the organization when the team leaves the for a Chicago training spot not yet established.

“For me it’s not just the Bulls,” Garofolo said. “It’s the press people who come. People recognize Deerfield because of the Bulls. Lake Forest is for the Bears and Deerfield is for the Bulls.”

Though Garofolo is disappointed, the impact on his overall business will not be huge. What started as a one-shop operation on Waukegan Road just north of Lake Cook Road 39 years ago by his father, Ralph Garofolo, now has 13 warehouses in seven states.

In addition to Illinois, the company operates in Florida, Texas, Colorado, Nevada and California. Though many people in the area may not know it, they could be riding on Bridgestone Firestone or other tires supplied by Deerfield Tire Co.

“We sell to all the car dealers around here,” Garofolo said. He is also proud of his competitive prices. As its own distributor, Deerfield Tire Co., operating as TireXchange, can give itself an advantage. “We don't mark them up a couple of times like they (car dealerships) do.”

How One Store Became a Nationwide Enterprise

In 1973, Ralph Garofolo was the country’s top sales representative for Firestone when he decided to go into business for himself. He opened the Waukegan Road location and soon had it hopping. The company takes care of all of a car’s needs in addition to tires, its specialty.

“He was an entrepreneurial guy,” Garrett said of his father. “All of a sudden he was selling wipers and fluid to all the gas stations in the area.” Garrett got his start then as well. “I was 9. I was running around here sweeping and cleaning the toilets.”

Eventually Ralph left Garrett managing the Deerfield operation and headed to Arizona to develop the wholesale business. “He knew I could handle it so he left me in charge,” Garrett said.

Though Garrett Garofolo knows tires from the most basic to the highest performance, he treasures the opportunities he has had to help people like Jordan and the late Walter Payton. He credits his success with celebrities to treating them no different than anyone else.

Jordan Makes First Appearance

“My mouth just about hit the floor,” Garofolo said of the first time Jordan walked in. “I try to treat them like a normal person. We specialize in high performance tires and most of the players have those kinds of cars.”

It was the company’s knowledge of high performance tires good for the race track that led to Garofolo’s relationship with Payton. After retiring from the Chicago Bears, Payton owned an auto racing team.

“He asked Firestone if they knew someone who could help him and they told him about us,” Garofolo said. Payton came to the store and Deerfield Tire Co. began to supply the Payton racing team. It was Payton’s personality that Garofolo treasured most.

“He’d come in, sneak up behind you, put you in a headlock and chew on your ear,” Garofolo said. “He came in here and pinched the guys while they were working. He was awesome.”

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