DARLINGTON, Pa.—A nearly 40-year-old tire dealership in western Pennsylvania has been reborn—the result of a $1.25 million renovation. Jack's Independent Service Inc. in Darlington reopened last October with a new six-bay service facility and showroom area. The dealership also added a 2,800-sq.-ft. convenience store.
"It's going great guns," said J.M. Gishbaugher, president. January's sales were up 10 percent over January 1999 figures, he said, and the convenience store is "paying its own way."
Mr. Gishbaugher said he had expected the store, as a new business venture, would lose money for awhile.
The decision to upgrade the dealership wasn't entirely voluntary. Federal law mandated that all underground gasoline storage tanks (UST) be modernized or removed by December 1998. So J.M. and his brother Greg, secretary/treasurer of the company, had to decide whether to replace the old tank and stay in business or spend $180,000 to remove the tank and close down.
The business was founded in 1961 when their father, Jack, bought a 6.5-acre plot at the intersection of two rural roads. J.M. said his father decided to buy the land, which included a small two-pump filling station, after counting the number of cars that passed by.
Now, years later, the brothers have decided to continue and build up the family business rather than shut it down. "We had to look forward for our children," Greg said, "to leave a legacy behind."
Greg's older daughter recently graduated from college and manages the convenience store. His wife is bookkeeper for the company and another high-school-aged daughter also works there.
J.M. has a son and daughter working for the dealership.
Before the renovation, Jack's sales were about $2 million and J.M. projected those revenues to increase by about $1 million for the first full year in the new facilities.
The brothers spent thousands of dollars on feasibility studies, J.M. said, before deciding to take out the loan with the help of the U.S. Small Business Administration. "You have to be optimistic," he said.
In addition to selling gasoline and performing undercar and underhood auto service, Jack's also provides towing, delivers heating oil, fills propane tanks and sells tires.
As an American Car Care Centers affiliate, Jack's offers ACCC's American-brand radials, Michelin, Uniroyal, General and Firestone brands.
The dealership was closed for nearly two months while service equipment was installed in the new building and the renovation was completed.
Since reopening, Greg said service business has been "fabulous." Gas sales are building slowly and overall business "picks up more every day."
"While we were closed, people waited (for the reopening) to have service done," J.M. said.
He observed that the Darlington area, about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, is recovering economically from the steel plant closings of the 1970s. Greg said the brothers hope to expand the business.
"We have the capability of more stores," J.M. said.