Seeing a chance to give something back to the community, and maybe get a box of cookies or two out of it, Lafayette Tire Service in Lafayette, La., recently hosted 10 members of Girl Scout Troop 389 looking to get their Car Care merit badges.
The granddaughter of owner Ron Pratt was a member of the troop, according to service manager Kirk Prejean, who oversaw the visit and gave the girls their crash course in car care.
Mr. Prejean took the youngsters through the basics of do-it-yourself service and told them what they could look for to help their parents see and hear when it comes to the family car. He said his audience was nothing if not captive.
``They were very interested for the most part,'' he said. ``They asked lots of questions. We tried to answer them the best we could and tried to not over-complicate them....A vehicle is not a toy, and you have to let them know that.''
Located 45 miles west of Baton Rouge, La., Lafayette Tire is a Michelin Americas Small Tires dealer and sells strictly the company's lines of tires.
The outlet is AAA-approved and an AC/Delco repair facility, Mr. Prejean said. The store measures 20,000 square feet, including showroom, has seven bays and employs eight.
Among them are a tire and lube technician, three ASE-certified technicians, a service manager and an office worker.
The store gets half its business from tire sales, but Mr. Prejean said the goal is for an even split between tire sales and automotive service.
As for the scouts' visit, a planned 30-minute discussion stretched to an hour, Mr. Prejean said, as the inquisitive youths had plenty they wanted to learn.
``One asked how you know what kind of air to put in,'' Mr. Prejean mused. ``For a group of 10-year-olds, that was a pretty interesting question. It was a pretty nice change of pace from the ordinary day.
``We made it fun for them. They actually enjoyed it. Their greatest kick was we had some earplugs, and they thought that was the coolest thing ever. They wanted a pair of them. They all left laughing.''
They did not, however, leave any of their famous fare. At least not for free.
``We actually bought some cookies,'' Mr. Prejean said.
Ramona Tire & Service Centers made it an even dozen May 4 when it celebrated the grand opening of its 12th location, this one in Temecula, Calif.
The Hemet, Calif.-based dealership will make it a baker's dozen later this year. Groundbreaking will occur this month for the 13th store, to be built in Marietta, Calif.
While the Marietta location will be a fresh construction, the Temecula outlet, a 6,000-sq.-ft., six-bay shop, is a converted Winston Tire store. Ramona Tire General Manager Chris Wyborny said that opening inside the Winston building was a boon because it was nearly new.
``Winston had only had that location about two years,'' he said. ``It opened after our (other) Temecula location did. When they filed Chapter 11 and tried to abandon their higher rents, this was one they walked out on.''
Mr. Wyborny said business at the original Temecula location has been ``tremendous'' and that early returns on the new one are similar. ``That's a real booming area down there,'' he said.
Ramona Tire is a Bridgestone/Firestone affiliated dealer as well as a founding member of the Independent Tire Dealers Group (formerly The Tire Factory). In addition to Bridgestone and Firestone brand tires, the company sells Continental, Yokohama, Pirelli and some MAST products.
The new location employs 13. The typical Ramona location, he added, does about 65 percent of its business in auto service.
Mr. Wyborny said the company would like to have 20 stores in the next five years. This would be on the heels of a store-per-year growth over the last decade. Ten years ago the company had just four locations.