CHARLOTTE, N.C.-Gerrard Tire Co. is putting the finishing touches on its ``state-of-the-art'' commercial center that combines an array of mechanical, tire and roadside services upon which the Charlotte-based dealership has built its reputation. President Jerry Gerrard claimed truckers seldom find all their service needs at one stop. Rather they usually have to go to one location for mounting and balancing and to another place for alignment. ``We have it all,'' he said. ``There's nothing people need that we can't do.''
Since its April opening, the commercial center has seldom experienced slack time, Mr. Gerrard said. The center can work on 15 tractors at a time and has been conducting an average $50,000 worth of business daily, he said.
Gerrard Tire services owner/operators as well as trucking companies. Mr. Gerrard said the dealership has invested a ``lot of hard work'' to build a good reputation, particularly through its 24-hour roadside service for truckers. He contends anyone can sell 10 new tires anytime, but it's the dealer who can assist the trucker strand-ed on the side of the road that garners the truckers' loyalty and repeat business. . . ``and they'll tell five or six other people.''
The center will cost more than $1 million and was designed to consolidate services and help the operation run more smoothly.
The 25,000-sq.-ft. building houses a road service operation, drive-in alignment and tire services previously conducted at two other commercial sites. One of the sites continues to conduct retail and commercial service and the other site, a leased location, has been closed. The site that housed the road service operation has been converted to a warehouse/office.
The new center has 10 bays, a 25-foot canopied section to accommodate five more trucks and a warehouse to store about 4,000 to 5,000 new truck tires. The service area houses equipment for computerized alignments, tire changing, balancing and flat repairs.
The building's glass front resembles that of a retail store, Mr. Gerrard said. The waiting area has park benches and rails to keep customers out of the service area, yet still providing them a view of the work conducted on their trucks. It's what Mr. Gerrard described as ``a very exposed shop.''
On the outside, the dealership is paving the remainder of the six-acre property-enough to park 100 trucks-to allow ample maneuvering area for the tractor-trailer rigs. ``There are two ways in and two ways out and the (trucks) can circle the building if they need to,'' Mr. Gerrard said.
Mr. Gerrard also added a system he found in Europe in which each salesman is assigned a 20-foot tire container to store their customers' casings and retreads. This is intended to correct the problem of customers' tires getting mixed up with stock tires that arrive from the company's retread shop. In the past, ``salesmen would spend a lot of time looking for customers' tires,'' he said.
A truck transports retreads from the company's Bandag shop 50 miles away, and the dealership expects to eventually store retreads at the commercial center.
In all, the company operates two retail stores, a commercial/retail outlet, the new commercial center, the retread shop which retreads 150 heavy-duty truck, light truck, forklift and off-the-road tires daily, and three warehouses, including one that stores casings and used truck tires for resale. Fourteen service trucks provide 24-hour roadside assistance to truckers in the Charlotte area.
The family-owned firm netted $18 million in sales in 1994.
In addition to servicing the leasing companies and independent truckers, Gerrard Tire does business with the local new truck dealerships. The self-described ``tire dealership for the truck dealers'' provides new-tire swaps with the dealerships and their customers-a beneficial relationship that helps develop new customer contacts, Mr. Gerrard noted.
An when faced with the tough competition from mass merchandisers and large dealership chains in the area, ``you have to make every bit count,'' he said.