JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-When Dave Stringer left Jim Martin Tire Co. in 1989 to open his own commercial dealership, he planned to have five outlets within five years. His plan seemed sound-after all, he had come to know the Florida market quite well working for, and eventually running, Jim Martin Tire's commercial tire division for 17 years.
But undercapitalization and an intensely competitive environment hampered Mr. Stringer's early expansion plans. By the end of his fourth year, Stringer Tire had only three outlets-one each in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Tampa.
Then came 1994.
The Jacksonville-based commercial dealership acquired four existing outlets last year-one just eight days before the end of its fifth year.
``We made it,'' Mr. Stringer said with a chuckle after recalling his original expansion plans.
The acquisitions are expected to boost Stringer Tire's sales to more than $15 million this year, he said, with operations that now service most of Florida and southern Georgia.
Stringer Tire opened 1994 with the purchase of Tampa-based Harrison Fleet Service and Jacksonville-based Century Tire from two owners interested in pursuing other interests, Mr. Stringer said.
The company then closed these two locations merging their employees, equipment and accounts into Stringer Tire's existing operations.
On July 1, the company purchased Chastain Tire, an automotive/commercial dealership based in Thomasville, Ga., from L.C. Chastain Jr., who is also pursuing other interests, Mr. Stringer said.
That operation, now managed by Stringer Tire's Hank Russell, has taken on the Stringer Tire banner and is serving the trucking industry in south Georgia and northwest Florida.
Stringer Tire closed on its fourth acquisition, West Palm Beach-based Commercial Tire Inc., Dec. 23. The 11-year-old dealership, which served the mining, construction and transportation industries in southern Florida, has also taken on the Stringer Tire name. Former owner Woody Sheehan remains at the location as general manager.
As a result of last year's expansion, Stringer Tire now operates five full-service commercial facilities and a Bandag retread plant with 68 employees, 15 salesmen and 38 service and delivery vehicles.
The dealership has enjoyed an average 25-percent growth in sales in each of its five years, Mr. Stringer said. That growth is expected to continue throughout the next couple of years, despite increased price competition from, among others, Don Olson Tire & Auto Centers and Treadco Inc., he said.
``We still have a couple of more locations on the drawing board,'' Mr. Stringer said, noting the company is interested in entering a number of new markets including a possible venture in the Orlando, Fla., area.