SPRING LAKE, Mich.—Tire dealer Mike Alles was honored for aiding those who were in need. Then suddenly, he found himself in need, when a storm destroyed one of his two Alles Tire stores in May 1998.
And he got help when it counted and a brand new Alles Tire dealership opened Feb. 15 about a mile from the one that was destroyed. Mr. Alles said business at the new location is ``just going crazy.''
Mr. Alles won Tire Business' Tire Dealer Humanitarian of the Year award in 1998 for delivering truckloads of donations several times a year to the needy throughout the U.S. and Agua Prieta, Mexico.
While he and his wife, Kathy, were on a racing trip last spring—he races a vintage Corvette as a hobby—a straight-line windstorm struck Spring Lake and destroyed his dealership in the town center.
``It (the storm) blew the overhead doors out and then created so much pressure inside that it literally blew the roof right off the building, and the back wall blew out,'' Mr. Alles said.
The building may have been destroyed, but Mr. Alles had some luck on his side.
``The insurance company said they had never had a claim where the building was a total loss, but hardly anything in it was damaged,'' he said.
As soon as the Sunday morning storm passed, his daughter, Michele, her husband and the store manager began salvaging the contents.
Mr. Alles' daughter told him that about 30 people—many she didn't know—came and helped clean up the mess. By the time Mr. Alles and his wife returned to Spring Lake that evening, the volunteers had filled two semi-trailers with equipment, tools and inventory.
And there were a couple of other positive twists of fate. The office area was not damaged, and Mr. Alles was able to save the business' records.
Also, a few days before the storm, Mr. Alles had purchased some property about a mile from town as a future site for the dealership.
Mr. Alles said the old location was too small and had parking problems, so he was planning to build a new tire shop from the ground up anyway.
Meanwhile, business at his other location several miles away in Grand Haven, Mich., ``went nuts,'' he said. ``We were just deluged; we could not keep up.''
He said some employees from the destroyed shop were absorbed by the other location. In the meantime, local contractors—many of them Alles Tire customers—finished the new building two months ahead of schedule.
Mr. Alles said the cost of the business lost during the eight months the second location was closed is ``incalculable.'' And, while his insurance would have replaced the destroyed building, he had to raise extra money to build a larger shop.
Mr. Alles said he gave his employees a blueprint of the new store and asked them to design their work areas. He then gave the blueprint to his architect and said, ``This is what my guys need.''
But the hassle of the accelerated move appears to have been worth it. ``We almost doubled our May sales over the previous May in the other location,'' he said. And, he added, business at the Grand Haven location has continued to be strong even after the new shop opened.
And while all this was going on, he still managed to take two more truckloads of donations to Agua Prieta. He acknowledged he has cut back on racing trips, however—at least for this year.
Mr. Alles clearly is proud of the new location, including the showroom floor, covered with distinctive black and white ceramic tiles he brought back from Mexico.
``It's a real ego trip for us having people come in and say how much they like the way the place looks,'' he said.
And he's also proud of the help he got—from his family, friends and the community—when he was in need.