AKRON—Goodyear will phase out the use of the Brad Ragan and Carolina Tire names for retail operations it owns in the Southeast by the end of March, and will either sell the stores, convert them to Goodyear Automotive Service Centers, or close them.
At the beginning of the year, Goodyear operated 86 Brad Ragan Inc./Carolina Tire stores in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Goodyear said the locations operate as home and auto stores—that is, they still carry home appliances and other white goods along with tires and auto service. But that's a business format that no longer is viable in today's marketplace of mass merchandisers, a spokesman said.
Goodyear is negotiating the sale of several stores with a number of interested parties, the spokesman said, without identifying any of the possible buyers or quantifying how many stores would be sold, closed or converted.
Goodyear bought controlling interest in Brad Ragan in 1985, and took over 100-percent control in 1999. At one time, there were more than 140 Brad Ragan/Carolina Tire retail stores and more than 50 Brad Ragan commercial locations in operation.
The Brad Ragan commercial outlets already are operating under the auspices of Goodyear's Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems L.L.C. venture and are being converted to Goodyear Truckwise stores.
Brad Ragan, the individual who founded the chain, had a storied history in the tire business, from simple beginnings until his death in a plane crash in December 1979.
He started his own retail business in 1943, buying the Carolina Tire Co. in Spruce Pine, N.C., from a local oil company—in large part to get hold of a cache of unused tire ration stamps, according to his son, Brad Ragan Jr.
Prior to that, he had worked for Goodyear as a store manager, and then as a regional sales manager for Free Service Tire in Tennessee after being fired by Goodyear, Mr. Ragan said.
With the help of a line of credit extended to him by Goodyear, the senior Mr. Ragan extended the Carolina Tire network throughout the Carolinas and expanded the company into the commercial tire and retreading business. By the time the company went public in 1970, it was one of the largest—if not the largest—Goodyear dealership in the country, Mr. Ragan said.
Going public, however, brought its own set of problems, Mr. Ragan said, and by 1979, when his father was killed in that still unresolved crash in Provo, Utah, the company's stock had lost more than 90 percent of its value.
During 1984-85, the company faced an uninvited takeover attempt orchestrated by the New York-based Gabelli Funds, said Mr. Ragan, who had succeeded his father as CEO. To counter this maneuvering, he said he asked Goodyear to step in and become a shareholder. The tire maker did, and ended up with 75-percent control in a short time.
Brad Ragan Sr. was a founding member of the American Retreaders' Association and is in that organization's hall of fame. Brad Ragan Jr. is still active in the industry as owner of BR Retreading Inc. in Glasgow, Ky., and a partner in RDH Tire & Retread Co. in Cleveland, N.C.