MARYVILLE, Tenn.—When Jimmy Matlock decided several years ago the time was right to expand his Matlock Tire Service business, he took the time to do his homework.
That effort led him to Maryville, a town of about 20,000 a quarter hour's drive south of downtown Knoxville that is situated strategically in Blount County. The population there was growing about 2 percent a year, and household incomes double that rate.
But tapping into an increasingly well-off community—one steeped in southern character and style—was going to require some special thinking...especially when coupled with Matlock Tire's distinctive customer base: 62 percent of the dealership's customers are female.
The first attempt—buying out an existing dealership located in downtown Maryville—didn't pan out well, Mr. Matlock admitted, so it was back to the drawing board.
The result is a 10,200-sq.-ft., 10-bay tire store with a colonial-style front porch, an airy atrium showroom lush with greenery, and a roomy children's play area.
The new store opened in August last year in a new subdevelopment of Maryville, and monthly sales have quadrupled over those at the old, now-closed location, Mr. Matlock said.
The new store is Matlock Tire's fourth location, and first expansion since 1991. The other stores, in Knoxville, Lenoir City and Athens, Tenn., have all undergone some renovation in the past few years to modernize them and make them more appealing to the firm's growing female customer base.
Mr. Matlock first made the conscious decision to cater to female customers about a dozen years ago, he said, it has proved to be a profitable one.
"It allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition," he said. "I've always been a fanatic about keeping my stores clean and neat, and that started to attract the women customers, who then told others about us."
Matlock Tire was founded in 1953 by Joe Matlock, Jimmy Matlock's father, who ran the business until his death in 1978.
The dealership has been a BFGoodrich dealer almost from the beginning, Mr. Matlock said, and more recently added the Michelin, Uniroyal and Goodyear brands to its mix. He offers a full line of undercar services plus a limited amount of engine repair work.