ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (June 10, 2002)—Sometimes they work out and sometimes a non-tire franchise simply runs out of gas.
Joan Koebernick, co-owner of Arlington Heights-based Dakota-K Auto Repair Center & Tires, and her husband Neil founded their dealership in 1974 as a Union 76 service station that eventually evolved into a tire and auto service center. In its early years Dakota 76, as it was then known, “got by” thanks to good service. But it never was as successful as the Koebernicks would have liked, according to Ms. Koebernick.
“You have to be on the right corner. We always said we were one block from success, where gasoline was concerned,” she said, explaining that the dealership was located on a corner that wasn't a busy intersection.
For years, the Koebernicks dealt with the challenges of operating a gas station seven days a week and with high employee turnover. Once gas stations converted to self-service, they learned that gas was a product they couldn't control.
“One of the main things I used to get upset about was when 76 and the other manufacturers of gasoline started taking over their own stations again. They were in direct competition with us and they would sell it to the motoring public for the same price they sold it to us for,” Ms. Koebernick said. “We had been brought up in the business to believe that we couldn't survive without gasoline and that just wasn't the truth. And when I sat down and ran the numbers, I understood that.”
In 1991 Dakota-K dropped its Union 76 franchise because the investment needed to maintain overhead was greater than any immediate returns, she said, adding that her firm also had a need to create additional parking spaces for its automotive customers.
Dakota-K operates two locations. In 2000 the dealership received the National Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics from the Council of Better Business Bureaus.