TORRINGTON – It’s highly likely that the most recognizable thing about Olson Tire Company for the last few decades has been Ray Mansoldo’s smiling face.
He outlasted the bias-ply tires the shop sold when he started there in 1979, and when he got his start in the business, the cars looked a lot different. You could actually work on those cars, he said.
“Back then, the kids liked their cars and worked on their cars,” he said. “They raised the hoods and they could work on their motors. Now, the cars are more complex and technical. If you want to work on your car, you have a computer to plug in and you need a mechanic who can read the codes and tell you how to fix them.”
Mansoldo, surrounded by family and friends, put in his last day at Olson on Friday. After 40 years at Olson and over two decades as the shop’s manager, he retired from the business where he was a fixture.
Things have changed since Mansoldo began working at Olson over four decades ago. The biggest difference, he said, was the automotive technology.
“When I first started, there were about five or six sizes of tires that would fit 90 percent of the cars,” he said. “They were the bias-ply nylon tires. Later on down the road, the radial tire came out and that tire was rated for 40,000 miles and that old bias-ply got 15,000. It was a smoother ride, better fuel economy – and it was more expensive.”
Mansoldo grew up in Sunrise. He spent some time working as a computer operations manager in Chicago, Ill., but grew tired of the hustle of the big city. His wife and her family called Torrington home, and Mansoldo found that he liked life in Torrington, too.
“My wife’s folks lived here and we just wanted to be here with that part of the family,” he said. “I stayed here and it was a nice place to work. I didn’t have to commute. In my younger days, I lived in Chicago and I was a computer operations manager. Had to commute to work, commute back home and it was just really hectic.
“This was a more calm life. It’s a nice town, I raised my two girls here and they graduated from high school here.”
He said he started his career working in the shop, doing the manual labor of servicing cars and working with tires, but he moved into inventory and eventually became the manager. Gary Olson, the owner of the company, said Mansoldo became a person people trusted with their vehicles.
“He is one of those few people that when the customer comes in, they feel he can be trusted,” Olson said.
“It’s allowed me to move into other areas of business, and he has basically ran this for the last 25 years and done a wonderful job.”
Mansoldo said he has a list of things he’d like to accomplish in his retirement, including taking his family on a trip.
“I have some projects I’ve got to get done,’ he said. “My kids came out and visited. We decided that after I get all of my projects up to date, we are going to plan some kind of trip.
“We don’t want to get out of this country. We’ve been on a couple of cruises and we just want a family-oriented deal. That is our main concern right now.”
But while he’ll be enjoying spending more time at home and with his family, Mansoldo said there will be some things he’ll miss about working at Olson Tire.
“The main thing I’m going to miss is the people,” he said. “I have made more acquaintances in this town in the 40 years that I have been here. Lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college teachers, high school kids, farmers, ranchers, truck drivers – just a whole variety of people. There are lots of people that I know that I’m going to miss.”