MERIDEN, Conn.—Malerba's Silver City Tire Co. Inc., in Meriden, has been named first runner-up in the small business category of the fifth annual "Nozko" Family Business Awards competition sponsored by the University of Connecticut Family Business program. The award recognizes successful family businesses in the state.
"We're very proud to be picked by a group of peers," said Bob Malerba, owner and president of Malerba's.
Receiving the award caps a good year for Malerba's, which saw sales increase about 15 percent in 1999 over 1998 levels to more than $3.5 million, Mr. Malerba said.
As for 2000, the three-outlet commercial/retail dealership will start the year by moving one of its locations about 12 miles south on Interstate 95 from Dayville, Conn., into a new 6,300-sq.-ft. building in Plainfield, Conn.
The dealership also has hired Barnstorm Productions, a Meriden-based communications and marketing firm, to establish an Internet site and create a new logo. Malerba's had an opening for a salesman, Mr. Malerba said, but decided to hire Barnstorm to update the company's image and facilitate a move into e-commerce.
Mr. Malerba's father, G. William Malerba, founded the business in 1939 as a delivery service. The elder Mr. Malerba retired in 1984 and was inducted posthumously into the International Tire Retreading and Repairing Hall of Fame in 1992. He died in 1987.
Malerba's entered retreading in 1957 and has been a Bandag franchisee since 1975. The retread plant in Meriden has a capacity of 100 tires per day, Mr. Malerba said, but usually produces less than that. Each retread is custom-made for a specific customer.
Malerba's is active in fleet management and consults with commercial customers about sizes needed.
"We go to the large customers and say, `What do we have to have in inventory to get your business?'" Mr. Malerba said. "The retreads (Malerba makes) are all going directly to end users."
In 1994, Malerba's bought Tyre Man of Manchester, Conn., and acquired Sam Wibberley Tire Inc. in Dayville, Conn., in 1998. Mr. Malerba said the firm is considering adding a fourth location in the southern part of the state in the near future.
Malerba's three existing locations are near busy interstates, and it has seven service trucks and offers 24-hour road service.
Mr. Malerba credits the company's success to his 24 employees who "are the strongest part of our success."
He advocates more training for tire technicians and would like to see them assume journeyman-like status—respected for their knowledge and skill, and compensated appropriately.
The hourly rate Malerba's charges for a road service call is only about half the amount charged by home appliance repair companies, Mr. Malerba said, yet road service is more dangerous.
In addition to commercial tire service, Malerba's offers full mechanical and tire service for passenger vehicles at all three locations.