Anniversaries are usually a cause for revelry, so a group of tire dealers around the country couldn't help but mark major milestones with grand celebrations.
A quintet of dealerships celebrated or are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year totaling nearly three centuries of combined business. They are: Superior Tire and Auto, East Scarborough, Ontario; Belle Tire Distributors Inc., Allen Park, Mich.; Grismer Tire Co., Dayton, Ohio; Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., Prineville, Ore.; and Circuit Tire Sales Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia.
Perhaps summing up the feelings of all five, Superior President Paul Hyatt said: ``You can't survive this long without having a really clear idea of what you stand for and what you're willing to do for your customers.''
The following is a look at the five dealerships and what they did, and are doing, to celebrate their birthdays.
The original Belle Tire location, in Detroit, is long gone. But the Allen Park-based company is still going strong as one of North America's oldest tire dealerships.
The dealership celebrated its 80th year in business with an anniversary sale and the grand openings of a pair of stores. The festivities covered a three-week period in August.
Belle Tire held anniversary activities at all 65 of its outlets, featuring what Vice President Jeff Kruse called ``awesome prices for our customers.'' Festivities also included the opening of new stores in Brighton and Commerce, Mich.
The dealership operates 57 retail stores, three commercial/retail outlets and and five commercial-only locations. Mr. Kruse said the company has 10 properties under development, including three in the greater Toledo, Ohio, area.
``Our business was very strong throughout the period,'' Mr. Kruse said. ``Our business was quite strong in August. The new stores we opened were very successful right out of the gate.''
Belle Tire, which is affiliated with the American Car Care Centers Inc. dealer program, employs 1,300. It sells Michelin, BFGoodrich, Uni-royal, Goodyear, Kelly, Bridgestone, Firestone, Toyo, Continental, American and General brand tires, among others.
Grismer Tire is spending all of 2002 celebrating its 70th anniversary and is doing so with a variety of promotions and sales, according to John Marshall, vice president-retail.
The year-long event kicked off with the opening of a store in Fairborn, Ohio, that included a visit from Bridgestone/Firestone executive John Gamauf. Mr. Marshall said all promotional material this year includes mention of the 70th anniversary.
Grismer Tire has 25 locations in the Dayton area and employs about 260 and is eyeing further expansion.
Construction was to begin this fall on a store in Troy, Ohio, while another location will be moved, though Mr. Marshall would not divulge which one. The dealership operates one location as far north as Columbus, Ohio, and is looking to add a second one there, he said. .
Grismer Tire is perhaps best known for being the oldest Bandag retreader in Ohio. It was the first full-circle retreader in Ohio outside of Firestone itself, according to Mr. Marshall. Grismer also was one of the first in the state to sell the Michelin brand.
The company has one retreading facility, but Mr. Marshall said it has been getting more heavily into the retail end of the business, and within that, more heavily into automotive service.
The company does some wholesaling in addition to its commercial business, he added.
East Scarborough-based Superior Tire celebrated 60 years in business by saying a change is for the best. In this case, part of the anniversary festivities included oil changes for 60 cents for first-time Superior customers.
There are six Superior stores-five in the greater Toronto area. Plans are in the works for more, the company said. Superior Tire sells BFGoodrich, Goodyear, Michelin, Pirelli, Toyo, Bridgestone, Firestone and Uniroyal brand tires.
To celebrate a half-century in business, Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. featured the man himself-its namesake, Les Schwab.
The Prineville-based dealership has been re-running advertisements featuring its founding father, which have been incorporated with the current president, as part of 50th anniversary celebrations that in-cluded a summer sale and point-of-purchase material.
Les Schwab, the largest dealership in the Pacific Northwest, has 355 outlet including affiliates. For the anniversary, those outlets had what Brian Capp, Schwab's director of sales and marketing, called sales of ``our best tires.''
Les Schwab employs about 7,000 and sells Cooper, MultiMile, Kumho and Toyo brand tires.
Circuit Tire hasn't been around as long as some of the other dealerships celebrating milestones, but the Vancouver-based dealership is focused on making sure it remains in business as long as the others.
To celebrate its 30 years in business, the dealership recently held an on-site radio promotion, with a barbecue and give-aways, along with a promotional sale. Co-owner Craig Rudd conceded the anniversary did not go exactly as planned, but noted the dealership is continuing to grow.
Mr. Rudd has been around for all but a couple of Circuit's 30 years. The single-store dealership has survived the closure of a nearby race track-supplying locals with race tires was an integral part of its tire business-and still finds plenty to do with its seven bays, three of which are dedicated to tires alone.
The company still specializes in supplying tires for sports cars and finds, on a typical day, its bays are often filled with the likes of Mercedes, Porsches and even a Ferrari or two.
Circuit Tire sells what Mr. Rudd termed ``everything from A to Z'' in tire brands, with its major labels being Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin, Yokohama and BFGoodrich, as well as most custom wheel brands.
In this age of dealer buying groups, Circuit Tire is still completely independent, though Mr. Rudd said that is subject to change. ``We're always contemplating that,'' he said. ``That's always on a back burner.
``It's harder to remain profitable in the marketplace and remain competitive without having the buying power.''