When you enter Direct Tire, based in the Boston area, you pass under a banner that reads, "We'll Fix It So It Brakes." That slogan, which owner Barry Steinberg wrote himself, provides barely a hint of what makes Direct Tire different from other automotive shops. The difference becomes apparent as soon as you step inside.

The waiting room is as immaculate as a VIP lounge. The magazines on the rack are current, with titles ranging from Sports Illustrated and GQ to Vogue. The coffee is freshly brewed. There are windows in every wall, allowing you to watch Direct Tire's technicians as they work. Looking around, you notice that everyone is in uniform. The managers and the salespeople wear shirts and ties with a baseball-style jacket that carries the company logo; everyone else has matching pants and T-shirts with the company name and slogan. Even the way people address you is different. "I've never heard so many yes ma'ams and no ma'ams in my life," says one customer who has been going to Direct Tire for years.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing