Car museum to honor Rancho Santa Fe resident’s family business

The San Diego Automotive Museum
The San Diego Automotive Museum tells the story of the past, present, and future of motorized vehicles with its exhibits and collections.
(Courtesy of San Diego Automotive Museum)

Two years ago, the San Diego Automotive Museum’s annual fall gala aimed to raise money for a new initiative — the creation of a vocational education program for at-risk youth.

With the program now up and running with the support of many of the museum’s partners, the Balboa Park institution intends to improve and expand the vocational academy with donations from this year’s annual fundraiser scheduled from 5 to 10 p.m. Sept. 30.

For the third straight year, the event will honor a museum supporter with Rancho Santa Fe ties.

After recognizing the philanthropy of auto dealership owners Bill and Susan Hoehn in 2021 and businessman Doug Manchester last year, the museum this year is honoring Discount Tire.

The nationwide corporation’s leadership includes Rancho Santa Fe resident Lisa Pedersen, daughter of Discount Tire founder Bruce T. Halle. She is the company’s assistant vice president of marketing.

“We are sponsoring and have made gifts to the vocational academy and as a whole to the automotive museum, and this year they’re honoring Discount Tire,” Pedersen said in a recent interview at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.

Students at Morse High School work with Manuel Cisneros and the San Diego Automotive Museum on the art of pin stripping.
Students at Morse High School work with Manuel Cisneros and the San Diego Automotive Museum on the art of pin stripping.
(San Diego Automotive Museum)

“It’s about Discount Tire supporting the community and your youth and our responsibility to pay it forward. We’re extremely honored to be part of this year’s program.”

Billed as “THE Party in the Park: Full Throttle,” the event, which is being co-chaired by RSF resident Jill Berg, will feature music by Shane Smith and the Saints, which was featured in “Yellowstone Season 5” with Kevin Costner.

The gala includes a three-course dinner produced by Ron McMillan’s Catering Solutions, wine from Adobe Road Winery, a hosted bar, line dancing and numerous surprises.

Information on prices and other details is available at

Established in 1988, the museum tells the history of the automotive industry through its vast display of vehicles and exhibits.

In the last few years, museum leaders have sought to refurbish the site and expand it.

Discount Tire got the effort rolling a few years ago by providing funds to renovate the museum’s floors, said Sharon Smith, the museum’s strategic director of community outreach.

“We are very grateful to honor this year Discount Tire,” Smith said in an email. “They were the first to make a significant impact on the experience for our guests. The floors dated back to the 1980s and needed to be replaced. This was the first improvement in the museum three years ago.”

The entrance to the San Diego Automotive Museum
The entrance to the San Diego Automotive Museum, including murals that depict images of California’s commerce, scenic beauty, agriculture and industry.
(Courtesy of San Diego Automotive Museum)

Last year, the museum library was remodeled by Barnhart-Reese Construction, thanks to the generosity of Jill and Jim Berg and Sharon Dunn, Smith said. The library is slated to reopen Jan. 16.

The outside of the building has a new look with the installation of two bear statues on the roof that display the U.S. and California state flags, a presence that harkens back to the appearance of the building in the 1930s, long before it became the museum site.

Meanwhile, the museum is continuing to gear up for an expansion and part of the gala funds will go toward that effort.

Last year’s fundraiser generated about $1 million and this year the event is expected to raise as much or more to continue building on the success of the vocational academy, with the goal of establishing its own site.

Smith said 50 youths under the poverty line are now participating in the program, while five have been placed in jobs. Apprenticeships are offered through Discount Tire, Mercedes, Napa Auto and the Mossy Automotive Group, among many partners.

Discount Tire’s involvement is a continuation of an ongoing effort to support young people in the community by introducing them to opportunities through its business. The company’s philosophy is “to make dreams come true,” said Pedersen.

“We bring in high school students and younger people to see what it’s like to work at Discount Tire and to get a sense of all the different automotive careers there are out there,” Pedersen said. “At Discount Tire, we pride ourselves on our mentorships.

“There are good jobs (at Discount Tire) and (employees) make a good living. So many times they say they never envisioned their lives turning out so well. ... We want everyone to live the life they’re looking for and it can happen with these trade jobs.”

Her father undoubtedly never envisioned he would be the founder of a business empire when he rented an old plumbing supply building in Ann Arbor, Mich., and started a shop with an inventory of six tires.

As the company burgeoned and went nationwide, it relocated its headquarters to Scottsdale, Ariz., where Pedersen moved with the family from Michigan. The organization now has more than 1,160 stores spread over 38 states and about 27,000 employees.

Given Discount Tire’s vision and commitment to youth, the automotive museum’s vocational academy is a natural fit for the company.

“We’re excited to see this program grow and we’re excited for San Diego and the kids of San Diego, especially knowing college is not for everyone,” Pedersen said. “Some children can’t imagine going back into another classroom. We need them and we need their services.”