If Big O Tire Stores Inc. franchisees Ron Custard and Richard Stringham are right about how they got together to own their first store, then their competition is in a lot of trouble. The separated high school buddies hadn't seen each other for 32 years until April, when Mr. Custard said ``something'' told him to try to contact his old friend once again.
In an effort to locate him, he called Mr. Stringham's mother.
While the two were on the telephone, Mr. Stringham suddenly stopped by his mother's house, saying ``something'' told him to visit.
The two old friends are convinced they know what that ``something'' was.
``We both feel like God gave us this opportunity,'' Mr. Custard said. ``Now we're putting our hearts and souls into what God has given us.''
Following that fateful day, the two men met and discussed their careers.
Mr. Custard had worked in the tire business for 29 years, the last three of which he spent as manager of a Big O store in Lake Forest, Calif.
Mr. Stringham was a successful businessman who was looking for a business opportunity.
When the two found out that the Lake Forest store was for sale, they decided to purchase it.
Englewood, Colo.-based Big O Tires has about 390 stores in 18 states.
Many women feel the need occasionally to ``freshen up''-even metal ones that stand over 12 feet tall.
The Wheel Lady, a giant wheel sculpture that stands outside WEST-SIDE Inc. just beyond Eufaula, Okla., recently was repainted by 80-year-old sculptor and part-time employee Noel Wright.
The single-location dealership has used the sculpture to attract the attention of motorists along Highway 69 for the past six or seven years, according to President John Dodd.
The Dayton and Goodyear dealership performs most kinds of automotive services-including front-end, glass, radiator and general repair, Mr. Dodd said.
Whatever you consider the start date-1922, when electrician Fred Sloat started selling tires from his home, or 1927, when he opened his first store in Batavia, N.Y.-Sloat Tire Shop has survived to become one of New York's oldest dealerships.
And the fourth-generation family business has thrived through the years without ever offering automotive service.
The firm retails and wholesales all major brands of tires, but its primary line has been Cooper since 1939, said Todd Sloat, purchasing manager and sales.
Don't let the fact that Sloat Tire has remained a single-location operation fool you about its success. Last year the $1 million-plus store was voted Retailer of the Year by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Sloat said the firm owes its success to a reputation for strong customer service, in part because it has remained a family operation for about 70 years.
And the dealership is primed to continue into the next generation as well. Eighteen months ago, Mr. Sloat and his wife, Jeanie, had triplets-Lacey, Jordan and Larisa-who he said might one day take an interest in the business as well.
The Wheel Lady, a giant wheel sculpture that stands outside WEST-SIDE Inc. near Eufaula, Okla., waves at motorists along Highway 69.
WEST-SIDE Inc. photo
The Sloats of Sloat Tire, left to right: Clare, secretary, treasurer and co-owner; Timm, road service and shop manager; Ronald, president and co-owner; and Todd, purchasing manager and sales, with Todd's triplets, Lacey, Jordan and Larisa.
The (Batavia) Daily News photo