RESTON, Va.—More than 700 people representing 409 tire dealers came to make deals with more than 70 exhibitors at American Tire Distributors' Reston VII 2000 Trade Fair, Feb. 12 in Reston. American Tire Distributors, which has more than 5,000 tire dealer customers in 11 states on or near the Eastern Seaboard, offered its best deals of the year—good for that day only—to attendees.
Exhibitors offered everything from computer software to lubricants to tire-changing tools, from forklift tires to giant agricultural tires. Some exhibitors were as well-established as American Car Care Centers Inc.—Jim Matthews, president of American Tire Distributors, is a founder of ACCC—and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
Others were first-timers, such as Orteck International of Jessup, Md., an importer of tires from China and India. "I'm here to meet the dealers, sell some tires, and hopefully make some permanent contacts," said Orteck President Sonny Veen.
American Tire Distributors, the wholesaling arm of retailing giant Merchant's Inc., exists to offer smaller, independent dealers the same price breaks and access to inventory as company-owned or chain dealers, Vice President Bob Barnes said.
"Not that we don't handle some very big accounts," he said, "but for small independents, we kind of fill a void. As tires have evolved, the big distributors have stopped serving the smaller dealers. We fill that niche."
The company prides itself on flexibility and quick delivery, he said. "We can deliver one, two, three, four or 100 tires within a day, whereas a major manufacturer requires a 2,000-pound minimum order, and those tires can take several days to arrive."
Having American Tire Distributors as a supplier has been a boon to Upper Marlboro, Md.-based Marlboro Tire & Automotive, an ACCC member, said the dealership's president, Mike Kress.
"I especially appreciate their Tire Link system," he said. "Our PCs are hooked up to their computer system. We can order a tire from them and have it the next day."
With the proliferation of specialty sizes, having a link to a large inventory of warehoused tires is crucial, he said. American Tire Distributors owns the former Goodyear distribution center in Baltimore—the same warehouse Goodyear used when Mr. Kress' father was the company's regional district manager.
"I've reduced my inventory tremendously," Mr. Kress said. "We can pick the best of their offerings."
While Merchant's has made news recently by its ever-closer relationship to Michelin Americas Small Tires, American Tire Distributors continues to take pride in offering a wide range of tire makes, models and sizes, as well as parts and equipment in many well known brands.
"We distribute ACCC, MAST, Pirelli, Nitto, Bridgestone, Firestone and General, among others," Mr. Barnes said. "The individual dealer can get many brands from us, at prices as good or better than the manufacturers themselves can offer."
Founded in 1943 under the Merchant's name, the division became American Tire Distributors in 1984.