VENTURA, Calif.-How do you go from the cauldron of running a big tire dealership for 20 years to, well, a life of leisure? Check back with Daniel L. Beach in a few months and ask him that question.
He should be pretty well rested by then, if not antsy to get back into the business he's called home since the Iowa native rolled into Ventura in 1976 with two small children, a pregnant wife and an entrepreneurial passion that burns to this day.
It caught many in the industry by surprise when the 53-year-old president and CEO of Parnelli Jones Inc. announced on Feb. 28 that he had sold his interest in one of the nation's largest independent retail tire chains. But it was far from a spur-of-the-moment decision.
``There comes a time when everything is right for an exit. That was the case here. Simple as that,'' Mr. Beach said amidst packing boxes and closing the lid on a prolonged chapter in his life. ``The right exit strategy became available, and I took it.''
Because he signed a non-disclosure agreement, Mr. Beach would not divulge just who bought his interest in the company, which operates 93 stores in seven states.
However, TIRE BUSINESS has learned from highly placed
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sources that tire maker Continental General Tire Inc. has acquired the dealership.
Mr. Beach and his longtime partner, Roy Doumani, owned 60 percent of the company's common stock, with the balance held by its Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
The status of the ESOP and Mr. Doumani's stake is unknown at this time.
Richard O'Neil has taken the helm at Ventura-based Parnelli Jones, where he had been chief operating officer since 1994. Previously, he held management positions with Safelite Glass and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
As for that ``life of Reilly'' thing, Mr. Beach said he'll do nothing for a few months except take several trips with his wife, Melinda, including a visit to Hawaii to see a daughter in college there. ``I always envied youth-they have a lot of time on their hands. . . . I'm going to do that,'' he said.
``Then I'll regroup and pick a spot. But I will absolutely be reappearing in this business, one way or another, in an entrepreneurial way,'' he promised.
Ownership of another dealership would suit him fine, he said-if the right opportunity comes along. He and his wife of 29 years live in Ojai, Calif., outside Santa Barbara, and prefer to stay there.
Mr. Beach was quick to point out he did not sell because the company was ready to go under. ``That's not the case at all.''
Actually, he said, the dealership's sales have been ``outstanding,'' with a better than 10-percent increase in 1995, and a rise of 40 percent in retail tire units as well.
What did sting business dearly, though, was an undercover investigation by California's infamous Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) that resulted in charges leveled against Parnelli Jones for alleged automotive service fraud.
The BAR probe, which came to light in December 1994, sent Parnelli Jones reeling, according to Mr. Beach. While public flak from the allegations subsided fairly quickly, he said, internally, the company was paralyzed.
``It took our focus away from doing business and also was an inhibitor for our stores to go about selling needed items. They were afraid to move,'' he said, ``so they quit selling.''
The result: a plunge in sales during the first quarter of 1995 that took until April to recuperate.
``Operationally, this company is now doing very well,'' Mr. Beach reported. ``We've had double-digit sales increases on a like-store basis over the previous year for 10 months in a row, and enormous growth in tire units.''
The 1993 merger of Mr. Beach's 62 Dob's Tire & Auto Centers with 35 Parnelli Jones outlets also stymied the company for a long stretch.
The firm completely overhauled its management team and ``tried to put the merger issues behind us.'' But he admitted it took a long time-a couple years-to get through and over the merger because of an ``us and them'' attitude.
``That's now behind us. . . .behind them,'' he corrected himself.
As he talked like a proud father of the love that has been his business, there was a sense of sadness, of loss. The first weekend after the sale was finalized ``was hard,'' he confided. ``Real tough.''
Still, for someone who acquired the skill of surfing while a University of Hawaii student and surfs practically every day, there is always the quest for one more wave-maybe that perfect breaker.
He had that perfect one, he feels, in his dealership-founded in January 1977 with one store, one mechanic and a tire buster.
``It was a very rewarding experience,'' he said. ``It's hard to describe, if you're an entrepreneur, the successes: growing the business; the feeling of satisfaction that gives you. These people are my family. Some employees have been here 16, 17 years. For me to leave that, leaves a real void inside me.''
``That great chapter in my life is closed, but I'm young enough to open a new one,'' Mr. Beach said.
Does he have any regrets? He pondered that for a long while. ``Can't think of any. I consider the whole thing a success.''