DURAND, Wis.-G.F. ``Sam'' Bauer and his brother, Ray, opened Bauer Oil Co. in 1944, two months before the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. At the end of that first year, the infant oil distribution company reported net income of only $1,070. But the Bauers persisted and opened their first tire outlet two years later, securing the foundation Bauer Built Inc. President Jerry Bauer said, 50 years later, helped turn the company into a multimillion-dollar success story.
Days after the company's 50th anniversary party, July 14, Mr. Bauer-one of Sam Bauer's sons, who bought the business with his brother, Jim, and brothers-in-law John Brantner, Dan Fedie and Larry Weber in 1976-talked to TIRE BUSINESS about the foundation of Bauer Built's success.
``I think our history is very important; the foundation was developed in the first couple of years,'' Mr. Bauer said. ``In the mid-70s, I started taking over the controls, but it was that foundation that we're building upon today.''
Sam and Ray Bauer opened a number of tire and service stations from 1944 to 1954, when the company first began retreading tires. Six years later, the company was incorporated as Bauer Built Inc., soon after becoming a Bandag franchisee.
Sam Bauer sold his share of the business to his sons in 1976, and they continued the company's aggressive expansion.
Today, Bauer Built's $97 million in sales are generated through its oil distribution division, 23 commercial and retail tire outlets, five retread shops, eight wholesale tire distribution centers, eight convenience stores, two handy lubes, a transportation division and an automotive parts store.
Bauer Built operates in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northeastern Illinois and in the western parts of North and South Dakota.
About 50 percent of the company's sales are generated through the commercial tire business, which Mr. Bauer said has changed dramatically during the past 50 years. For one thing, the company has added the Bridgestone, Michelin, Kumho and Hercules brands to its offerings. The company was strictly a Firestone dealership until 1976.
``I think the relationship with suppliers has changed. It used to be almost a family relationship,'' he said, noting he believes the company continues to have strong ties to its current list of manufacturers. ``It's different now.''
Running the business has changed, too, he noted, from a time when his father ``spent money when he had it'' to a time of constant forecasting, planning and managing resources.
``You have to utilize your people resources substantially better. People cost a lot more these days,'' he said.
Apparently, the company has done that quite well during the past couple of years. According to TIRE BUSINESS surveys, Bauer Built is among the largest commercial dealerships and retreaders in North America.
And that should continue in the near future, Mr. Bauer said, explaining the company is poised to take advantage of what most are calling an economic recovery. Bauer Built is projecting total sales of $107 million for 1994.
``It wouldn't be so easy if the foundation wasn't there,'' Mr. Bauer explained.