HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Dytech Auto Group Inc., d.b.a. GreatWater 360 Auto Care, has been on an acquisition spree the last couple of years, taking over nearly 90 independent auto service locations in the Midwest.
You probably haven't noticed the names changing on those acquired shops in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. That's because, unlike many major merger/acquisition players, GreatWater said it makes a point of retaining the individual businesses' identities — and their legacies.
The company has been acquiring single- and multi-location businesses in a variety of markets. The company's largest acquisition so far, by store count, happened in December when it bought Tire Tracks USA, a Bradley, Ill.-based dealership with 14 stores and a warehouse in northern Illinois.
The dealership signage is still emblazoned with the Tire Tracks name but will add, in smaller print, "a GreatWater garage."
"Our goal and our plan is to never change the name," GreatWater COO Scott Kear told Tire Business.
"We never go into an acquisition with the intention of changing the name. That's the last thing we want to do. We're buying these shops because they're obviously well-run shops. They're in neighborhoods we love to be in. They have a strong reputation. Why would we want to take that away?"
Since February 2021, GreatWater has grown to 96 locations after starting with seven Dykstra Auto shops in the Grand Rapids, Mich., market.
In 2003, GreatWater CEO and majority owner Jim Dykstra bought the auto service dealership his father Richard had founded in 1984. After expanding the dealership, he established Dytech to acquire other auto service businesses where the owners didn't have a succession or exit strategy.
The acquisitions went full throttle in 2021, when Dytech bought 50 locations, including Rockford, Ill.-based Butitta Brothers Automotive with 14 locations; in 2022 it acquired another 44 shops.
So far this year, Dytech has added two more: Trans Works Transmissions L.L.C. in Portage, Wis., and Farnsworth Auto Plus in Aurora, Ill.
About six months ago, Dytech decided to market itself as GreatWater 360 Auto Care to better resonate with consumers on what the company does, Kear said.
"As we buy all these shops, we have to affiliate them somehow. And obviously that GreatWater logo we hope is going to help."
GreatWater plans to continue acquiring shops this year but has no specific target number or markets, Kear said.
"We're not targeting demographic areas, we're targeting solid legacy neighborhood shops that want an exit strategy. We want to acquire at the right pace where we can continue to be effective and continue to serve those communities the right way. Is that 30 shops this year? I don't know. Is it 60 shops? I don't know, because we don't know what the year holds. …We want to do it the right way, not the fast way," Kear said.
He said the company has the capital for all these acquisitions due to the help of investors and the fact it is acquiring successful businesses.
"At end of day we are buying very profitable shops. We come in and hope to make them more profitable."
Two years ago, the company was doing all the pursuing of potential shops to buy.
"As we've grown from seven shops to 96 in basically 24 months, the word gets out there. So we're starting to see more and more people approach us," Kear said, noting that many of the owners who sold their businesses are now referring GreatWater to other shop owners.