Tire Kingdom Inc. has started marketing its own name in Cleveland after renaming 15 former Mueller Tire & Brake outlets in the Northeast Ohio area.
Riviera Beach-based TKI bought Mueller Tire in March 2002, including the 15 Cleveland area stores and four others in Columbus, Ohio. TKI, a subsidiary of Memphis-based TBC Corp., immediately changed the names of the Columbus stores but said it would hold onto the Mueller name in Cleveland because it was well known there for more than 80 years.
But Orland Wolford, president of TKI, said the company decided in November to switch the Cleveland stores-which by then included two new Tire Kingdom outlets-to start spending its promotions money on marketing its own name. The actual switch was done through December.
``Once we got up and got going, we decided to just get it behind us,'' he said of the change.
The company already is marketing the Tire Kingdom name in Cleveland with radio spots, billboards along major highways and newspaper ads. Mr. Wolford said television ads are scheduled to begin soon. The advertising campaign is not more intensive than in other new markets, he said, because of the Mueller name recognition.
Former Mueller Tire owner Scott Mueller said he was aware of the stores' names changing over. His grandfather, Walter J. Mueller, established the chain in 1918. Mr. Mueller said he has neutral feelings about the name change.
``That's what you get when you sell the business,'' he said.
While marketing its existing stores, Mr. Wolford said Tire Kingdom is planning new outlets to fully capture the two Ohio markets.
Three to four stores are planned in the Columbus area in 2003, and another one or two planned for 2004, he said. ``We want to get to the major destination spots in Columbus, and we know it's going to take six or seven more stores to do that.''
The company's 17 outlets in Cleveland are sufficient for now, but Mr. Wolford said the company is eyeing locations closer to the Akron area.
He said the stores will take 12 to 14 months to build once the company picks a site.
In a separate move, the company also is closer to moving into a new headquarters and warehouse in Florida. Mr. Wolford said a contractor is scheduled to begin renovations on TKI's new 45,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in Juno Beach, Fla. in March. The leased office will be in a former Winn Dixie grocery store. The company's existing headquarters in Riviera Beach is about 33,000 square feet.
Mr. Wolford also expects the company to move into a new leased warehouse in the first quarter of 2004. That facility, in Palm Beach, Fla., will be 110,000 square feet compared with the company's current 90,000-sq.-ft. facility in Riviera Beach. TKI's lease on its current site will expire in early 2004. The warehouse will include a technician training center.
Mr. Wolford said both moves give the company more space and better locations without increasing overhead.
``We're going there without spending any more money,'' he said.