130 Market NW was completed in 1958, and today looks very much like the original building. The third and current owner is 8th Day Gym and Studio. My most favorite thing about this early photo is the iconic mid-mod sign with the words, "Nuttiest Tires in Town,"... whatever that means! The other thing that is really interesting about this photo is the downtown vista in the far left; there is an absence of downtown high-rise buildings. The view is very different today!
When I first noticed the building, it was Avis Rental Car. However, the building was originally designed by E. John Knapp, AIA for the Ronda Tire Company and the retreading of tires. Amazingly, the Ronda Tire building seems to have transitioned from tire company to car rental agency to extreme work-out facility with little drama and very few changes.
There are still two components to the facility, the stylish front of the building, and the connected warehouse-style building behind, plain but functional. The big garage doors are still functional and are often opened up in the warmer months for the benefit of those working out in the gym. It is, of course, the folded plate roof that sets it apart. Ask almost anyone who has lived in Grand Rapids a while and they will know this building.
At the time of our initial interview with architect E. John Knapp, AIA, John was 98. He asked if we knew that he had designed that specific building. We did but at the time did not know that the folded plate roof design was something Knapp used in a number of his buildings. (He used a similar roof structure for the 28th Street Holly's Landing restaurant and at least two custom homes (but at the time we didn't know he had designed those other buildings.) The Ronda Tire Building sits on an unusual piece of land at the bottom of a hill just south of downtown - a kind of crossroads location.
Knapp remembered the client meeting to plan the building: “The boss of Ronda Tire Co. walked into our office (O’Bryon and Knapp Architects, 300 East Fulton, Grand Rapids, Michigan) and asked to talk to an architect. I greeted him and invited him to have a chair. I spent the next hour hearing his dream of a new home for his tire company.
I asked him what his company's primary sales were. They sold many brands of auto and truck tires. The new building would allow Ronda to get into the used tire retread business. They needed to install new machines for this new business. He gave me a catalogue giving me details of how they worked and what we needed to install: power, water, and drains, etc.
I asked him to take me over to his present location to bring us up to date. In his shop and showroom I found an interesting process of transforming old worn tires into good-looking almost-new tires. Ronda people had me watch the men retread several old tires.
Now I was ready to design their new Ronda sales room and work shop. He informed me of his budget, his new land site, and the approximate sized building area they needed. He wanted a very good looking building to help attract new customers to their new business location. (This is the way I enjoyed starting a new project.)”
Today the building is a busy gym, and the owner John Cebulski, who willingly gave us a tour of the building, really appreciates its design in a style that is so rare. The building at the bottom of a hill and simultaneously looks to the highway, looks toward the downtown and looks south as Market wanders off toward the old commercial and residential areas of the southwest side on Grandville avenue.
To read more about E. John Knapp, link here: http://www.ejohnknapp.com/