When Mike Upton, owner of Upton/Anderson Enterprises in Madison, Miss., decided to open a second retail tire location last July, he went above and beyond the municipality of Madison's aesthetic requirements for new buildings.
Mr. Upton not only configured the outside of the Madison outlet, which does business as Crosscreek Tire & Auto Service Center, to look like a home, but also refurbished the inside. He hired an interior decorator to design the waiting room to look like a living room, bought dining room chairs with pads for customers to sit on and created a children's playroom off to the side.
``We all know in this industry that most of our customer base is female,'' he said. ``We just wanted to create a different place. This community (Madison) is pretty upscale.''
The 12-bay, 10,000-sq.-ft. shop has a TV in the waiting room and library-like carrels with phone and Internet connections for customers to use while they wait.
White columns that look like they are supporting the structure and paintings by local Mississippi artists adorn the walls.
Mr. Upton said the store cost him $1.2 million to open and is on track to post $1.5 million in sales by its first anniversary. He said he's not sure if the contemporary decor has helped sell more tires, but he knows it ``makes for a more pleasant shopping experience.''
Besides the Madison store, Mr. Upton owns a location in Brandon, Miss., that does business as Crossgate Tire & Auto Service Center and posts $1.8 million in annual sales.
The dealership, which he co-founded with his father-in-law, Howard Anderson, carries Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton, Michelin, Uniroyal, BFGoodrich and Dunlop brands.
Master Tire of Evansville, Ind., is expanding, in more ways than one.
The 40-year-old family business come June will open its third location, along with its first convenience store.
Already with stores in Evansville and Jasper, Ind., Master Tire will open a second Evansville location that for the time being will have two bays and three gas pumps in addition to the convenience store.
Co-owner Bryan Zeller hopes the store's location will benefit from the 49,000 cars that drive by daily. ``We're starting out small,'' he said. ``But we're taking over a great corner.''
Mr. Zeller said he plans to expand to eight to 10 bays within two years, but that he wants to get a feel for things first.
With the area's increased traffic, caused in part by an influx of such national retail outlets as Blockbuster and Loew's, along with several restaurants, he believes business will increase accordingly.
He also hopes the convenience store will increase gas customers.
``That's going to be something new for us,'' he said. ``I've never really been involved with one. I've got three sisters who go by this place and never stop for gas, even though it's a penny cheaper than down the street. But right past there is a gas station with a C-store.''
Mr. Zeller owns Master Tire along with his brothers Dave and Jim, who took over for their retired father, Chuck. The elder Zeller started the business in 1960.
Master Tire carries Starfire (Cooper), Yokohama and Pirelli tires and does some wholesaling, Bryan Zeller said.
Master Tire employs 35 people and will have five employees at the new location, on Evansville's west side. One will be in sales, three will be service technicians with one to work the gas station.