Philip Nussbaum's 40 Years Experience and Passion for
Helping People Are Changing The Tire Industry
Philip Nussbaum, owner of Tire Tree in between Amarillo and Canyon, has over 40 years experience in the tire industry. With his families’ tire business starting in Amarillo in the 20’s and expanding to over 6 states, Philip definitely knows what it takes to run a successful tire business. But it was the time in between closing his multi-generational family business to opening his own shop that he saw the business as a customer and realized how he could improve on what was available. He also realized it was more than the industry he had a passion for, it was his ability to help people.
Philip’s family has a fascinating and rich history with deep roots in Amarillo. Philip’s grandfather, John Gulde, immigrated to America from Germany. He lived in Creed, Colorado where he was a Miner. John met his future bride, Philipina (who Philip was named after) in Creed, where she was a school teacher. John moved up from being a Miner to doing accounting for the mining company. John found a new opportunity with a lumber company in Amarillo that was looking for an accountant, so John and Philipina moved to Amarillo in 1926. John quickly gained an ownership interest in the lumber company. He later merged with the Crowe family to start Crowe-Gulde which became one of the largest pre-stress and concrete companies in West Texas. John was truly the definition of the American Dream as an immigrant who created his own story and wealth in America.
The other side of Philip’s family were the Nussbaums. His grandfather, Martin Nussbaum, and Martin’s brother George started a bus company in Wichita, Kansas in 1924. In 1926, Lee Bivins, the Mayor of Amarillo campaigned on the fact that he wanted to bring mass transit to the growing city of Amarillo. The Nussbaums had cousins who lived in Amarillo that had fruit stands and they would transport their fruit to Amarillo from south Texas on buses they owned. Martin and George were having a hard time competing in Wichita and with the opportunities available, they came to Amarillo in 1926 to start the Amarillo Bus Company. The brothers ran their bus company in Amarillo from 1926 to 1972. In 1972 L. Ray Vahue, Mayor of Amarillo, took the bus transit system over for the city which forced the Nussbaum brothers out of business. With the demise of their family bus company, they were stuck with a fleet of buses. Philip remembers one of the buses being used as a motor home for family vacations when he was little.
George’s son Walter, Philip’s father Leonard and Leonard’s brother Arnold would all end up at the family business after they all came back from World War II. Arnold was over the bus company and George ran their service division, A to Z Service. Leonard would be the last to come back from the war after he came down with dysentery and was put on an island until he was well enough to be discharged. When Leonard came back to Amarillo, he met with Joe Esco, the BFGoodrich sales representative contracted for the bus service department and the two ended up turning the service department into a tire company. So A to Z Service became A to Z Tire Company in 1948.
Philip can’t even pinpoint exactly when he started at A to Z Tire since his dad had taken him to the shop since he was a baby. Philip always wanted to be around his mom and dad and wanted to follow in their footsteps so he developed a passion for the tire business. Philip was the youngest of 5 brothers and as other brothers moved away from the family business, Philip grew a deeper connection and moved up through the company. He worked as a janitor, in the warehouse and as a tire buster throughout his teenage years. After graduating from Tascosa High School and attending one year at Texas Tech, Philip approached his dad about a full time job at A to Z in 1980. He wanted to marry his high school sweetheart, Kristy, and wanted a full time job to support his new family.
Philip’s dad started him out as a secretary, which he thought was an improvement from working in the warehouse. He worked as the secretary for a year and during that year Leonard gave Philip more responsibility such as ordering all the tires. Then he tasked him with coming up with a more efficient system to maximize income and minimize the expense for their semis to distribute to their retail locations. By the end of the first year Philip had increased their distribution revenue to over $100,000. So within the first year Philip went from being a secretary to doing all the ordering, to making the pricing sheets, to being in charge of the trucking division. At the time he had three other brothers working at the business, two of which were Vice Presidents and one was a store Manager. Philip never thought he would run the business but by 1982 all of his brothers had moved on from the business.
When the Amarillo retail store manager position came available Leonard offered the position to Philip. It was the first time Philip had been in charge of employees and technicians. He kept asking his dad for advice but his dad would never give it, he just kept saying “you’re the manager”. His dad was instrumental in empowering Philip to take charge of his new position. Within three months Philip completely reorganized the store and set new rules and procedures in place. After that he transferred to Wichita Falls to be a wholesale salesman and then to San Antonio to be an outside salesman. When he returned to Amarillo in 1989, after tripling the sales in San Antonio, he was named Vice President of the company. Leonard would retire from the business in 1996.
Philip ran the company from 1996 to 2016. A to Z Tire had 21 distribution locations throughout a six-state marketing territory of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Texas with a network of more than 6,000 dealers and 250 employees. As the years went on the wholesale division of A to Z was having to compete with bigger companies encroaching in their territory and their suppliers offering the same brands to their competition. With profit margins diminishing and the company being owned by brothers that were no longer working in the business, Philip made the tough decision to sell the company to Omni United in 2016. Within 3 years, A to Z was out of business.
After selling A to Z, Philip was under a two year non-compete agreement. During those two years he tried various things such as real estate, remodeling houses, tried working for a major corporation and none of them were a fit. Philip owns a small farm and would often get flat tires on his equipment. When he came to town the dealers wouldn’t have the tires he needed in stock, the service was terrible, the wait was so long or they would do the old “bait and switch”. Philip realized there was a need in the industry and he knew for a fact he could do better. As soon as his non-compete agreement expired, he planned for his own tire business.
When coming up with a name for his new tire company, his wife had a vision. Nussbaum is German for “nut tree” and Kristy pictured a tree with tires hanging from it. So Tire Tree was born and opened in between Amarillo and Canyon right off the Canyon E-Way in June of 2019. While planning to open the new store, Philip wanted to be different, he wanted to be better and offer better. He did a lot of research and took the pain points he came across when looking for tires as a customer and focused on improving on them. So he carries more tires in stock than his larger, corporate competition. If he doesn’t have a tire in stock, he can get it within a day or two. They also carry every brand available. He also prides himself on providing fast, friendly service at comparable if not lower prices than other dealers. Another thing that sets Tire Tree apart is the fact that they carry tires of ALL sizes such as tractor, ATV, forklift, lawnmower, semi and industrial.
Philip was lucky enough to find a manager, Billy Knisley, who shares his values and work ethic. Philip explains, “I really like helping people and I hope that Billy is with me for a long time because he’s just like me. He’s honest as the day is long, he’s a good person and he doesn’t ever want to rip anyone off.” Billy grew up in New Mexico in a little town called Bosque Farms. He started doing welding mechanics right out of high school. The company he was an apprentice for went out of business so he went into the tire business and ended up at Bill Williams Tire Center. He transferred from the Bill Williams in New Mexico to their location here in Amarillo. He then went to work as a Welding Mechanic at American Equipment and Trailer where he built service trucks. A man he went to church with told him that a new tire company was looking for a manager so he ended up coming on with Philip in September 2019.
Of all of the shared attributes between Philip and Billy, their love of helping people is the strongest as Philip explains, “Every day people come in with problems and we get to help them. We get to surprise them, that small, independent business people can beat the big guys. And we can service people better too. It’s exciting being of service to someone and I really love that.” Philip and Billy invite you to see how they have disrupted the tire business at Tire Tree by putting you and your needs first and by providing faster service, lower prices and better inventory by people who actually care about you.