LANCASTER, Pa.—Competition is to tire dealers what migraines are for most people—it's a reality you live with, but would prefer to lessen or go away. Though that's especially true in the populous Northeast, competition doesn't stop Kenneth Kline, owner of Lancaster-based K&W Tire Co. Inc., from expanding his dealership when the opportunity is right.
Mr. Kline is preparing to build his 10th location in Bath, Pa., a proposed 24,000-sq.-ft. combination retail/ distribution center. He plans to use most of the space as a warehouse in addition to an auto service center.
The company is awaiting final approval from the town's zoning board, which should come within the next 45 days, and expects to break ground for the new store in late 1999 or early 2000, Mr. Kline said
In 1998, K&W Tire purchased two stores in Delaware and one in Berlin, Vt. But Mr. Kline is quick to point out that his recent expansions aren't part of an aggressive growth plan.
``We don't have our eye on becoming the largest, fastest-growing dealership in the Northeast, but where it seems natural for us to expand our operations, almost out of necessity, we do,'' he said. ``Or if there's an opportunity to acquire a store or a group of stores, we'll give it serious consideration.''
The firm was founded in 1951 by Mr. Kline's father, Richard, and has become one of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s largest distributors, Mr. Kline said. K&W Tire distributes throughout eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New England.
Besides Cooper tires, the dealership carries El Dorado, Cordovan, Dunlop, Michelin and Goodyear brands. It operates four stores in Pennsylvania, two stores in Vermont, and two stores and a warehouse in Delaware.
K&W sells passenger, light truck, industrial, farm and off-the-road tires, which account for more than half the dealership's total sales. The company also offers basic undercar service, including brakes, struts, shocks, mufflers, alignments, batteries and front-end service.
Besides building a new location, Mr. Kline also plans a ``fairly substantial building project'' to renovate and expand his Williamsport, Pa., store and his two Delaware stores.
He said the key to his company's growth lies with his 130 loyal employees. ``We wouldn't be where we are if we didn't employ people who really care about our business—people who've found a home here and want to share in the success of the business as it grows. Without them, we just couldn't be where we are.''