AURORA, Ill.—It's a location most tire dealers would envy, and it's not even close to Chattanooga.
Hundreds of potential customers pass by each weekday during the morning and evening rush hours. And those who actually leave their keys at the service counter don't need a ride to work.
About six months ago, Tire Management Inc. created just such a situation when it opened a service counter at the train station in this city of 100,000 located 40 miles west of Chicago. Hundreds of Aurora residents use the station each day to catch commuter trains to get to their jobs in the Windy City.
Noticing that the 1,000-car parking lot at the station was jammed each week day, Tire Management's general manager, Mike Holzer, wondered how his five-bay retail service center could capitalize on that market. The store, staffed by eight employees, is located only about a quarter mile from the station.
The depot has booths where commuters can buy coffee and donuts or get a haircut. When Mr. Holzer saw an empty spot, "we got the idea that if maybe we put a booth in there with a phone and hit the commuters coming in and out in the morning, we would be a good service to them. The first week it took right off for us."
Commuters who need auto service—including oil changes, tires or other repairs—leave their keys at the Tire Management booth in the morning and get their cars that evening. Open about six months, the booth generates about five customers weekly.
The location also gives Tire Management the opportunity to market its services. Employee Bonnie Kuntsman spends an hour or two at the booth each rush hour. "She's not timid or shy," Mr. Holzer said. "She's really out there promoting things," handing out flyers and talking with passersby.
During the winter months, a Tire Management service truck with a battery pack also patrols the station parking lot during the evening rush hour to assist commuters having trouble starting their cars.
Joe Holzer Sr., Mr. Holzer's father, founded Tire Management in 1978 and remains active in the firm. The younger Mr. Holzer's brother, Joe Jr., heads the sales force, while sisters Shannon and Erin handle the financial and human resources functions.
Tire Management's main location is a commercial tire center with three drive-through bays. Another commercial location, in Ottawa, Ill., has been open about a year.
The dealership features Hankook, Cooper and other brands, and performs oil changes, undercar and underhood services. Mr. Holzer said the company expects to generate about $6 million in sales in 2000.
In the near future, he would like to add another retail location within about five miles of the train station. With another 300 spaces in the process of being added to the train station parking lot, Tire Management's current retail location "is getting to the point where it will be maxxed out pretty soon," Mr. Holzer said.