After moving the Les Schwab Tire Centers headquarters from Prineville to Juniper Ridge in Bend in 2008, the original buildings have sat vacant without any interest from potential buyers.

As a result, the company recently decided to improve the property and began the process of demolishing the outdated buildings on site.

“Whether the land is ours, someone else’s, we don’t have a specific plan for future use,” said Dale Thompson, chief marketing officer for Les Schwab. “No one has been using it in a decade or approached us (to buy it) in a decade, so we are going to move forward and make plans for the future.”

The buildings are currently being cleared out to prepare for demolition later this month, he said.

When Les Schwab opened up shop in Prineville in the 1960s, it brought an influx of jobs and sources of income to the city at a time when the community needed it.

“It probably kept our community going when our (lumber) mills were shutting down,” said Steve Lent, historian at the Bowman Museum in Prineville. “It was the business that provided jobs and income to our community, and it was a pretty significant part (of Prineville).”

The company was founded in 1952, when Les Schwab bought O.K. Rubber Welders tire store in Prineville and reopened it as his own. The company’s headquarters was opened in Prineville in the 1960s and later moved to Bend. The vacant buildings have stood as ghosts of business past.

“It is definitely a different moment in time for us because it was such a significant part of our community to have the main offices in Prineville,” Lent said. “It was a shock when it went to Bend, and all the buildings have been vacant since, so it really is a relic of our past.”

When it was in Prineville, the company grew exponentially and continued to add office space to accommodate growth before it ran out of room on the property, Lent said.

The next option was to move to Bend.

Now a decade later, the company wants to reopen space on the property to encourage a future sale and development.

“When you’ve got history and a lot of memories for people, we want to be conscious of that,” Thompson said. “We want to let folks know because it’s sensitive to them. The company — and Les, himself — was always moving forward and advancing, and we are trying to keep that legacy alive as the company continues to grow.”

Les Schwab currently has stores in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Today, the company employs more than 7,900 people in 478 stores, according to its company’s website.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, acolosky@bendbulletin.com

19860001