FORT MILL, S.C. (June 20, 2003)—Forget new product lines or fancy displays—Eddy Evans decided to invest in a church to keep his tire dealership's edge.
Mr. Evans, who has owned Evans Tire & Wrecker Service since he inherited it from his father in 1989, bought a neighboring church that came up for sale after its pastor died in 2001 and the congregation disbanded. The Macedonia Baptist Church in Fort Mill sits on a corner lot adjacent to Mr. Evans' business and home.
Worried about talk that investors were interested in the small church in this fast-growing area, Mr. Evans bought the building to prevent an undesirable company or—worse yet—another tire dealership from putting its roots there. Fort Mill has a population of about 8,000 in the town and 30,000 in the township, but it is close to bustling Charlotte, N.C.
“I wanted to be able to control who my neighbor was,” Mr. Evans said.
Mr. Evans plans to lease the church—a modular building with no steeple—to a pastor who will run another Baptist congregation, he said. He has no plans to expand his home or his business, and he has already received several calls from interested pastors.
“I don't want to disrupt the harmony of the church,” he said of the 26-year-old church.
While he doesn't plan to sell the building now, Mr. Evans isn't discounting its investment value. He did not disclose the purchase price of the land, but he said a corner lot down the road sold for $1.2 million.
“This is just a valuable piece of property,” he said.
Mr. Evans plans to garner some income from the rent, plus its likely sale when he's ready to retire. He doesn't plan to add any outlets to his single-store dealership, which his father founded in 1980.
“My next move is to retire,” said Mr. Evans, 35.
That retirement plan isn't just a leap of faith, he said. Mr. Evans credits the success of his business with his extremely loyal customer base. In fact, he said as much as 80 percent of his business is from repeat customers.
“I have made it off of repeat business,” he told Tire Business.
The largest contributing factor is just working with people one-on-one and relying on word-of-mouth advertising, he said. He keeps traditional advertising at a minimum, with a Yellow Pages ad his most extravagant tool.
Another bonus has been the wrecker service. In addition to selling primarily Bridgestone, Michelin and Dunlop brands, Evans Tire is on a rotation with other companies in the area to tow vehicles for the York County sheriff department, the city, the police department and the state highway patrol.
“It's decent,” he said of the profits. “You make an honest living.”