Bridgestone/Firestone's newest tire distribution center is so big you could put a golf course on its roof. Or open up a Starbucks in each corner.
But in Texas, grande is not just a coffee serving-it's a tradition. And at 610,000 square feet, the new warehouse, just outside the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, certainly measures up.
It's almost as if Nelson Miller, Bridgestone/Firestone logistics and efficiency czar, growled: ``Boys, we are not gonna bring a knife to a gunfight,'' before ordering the hired guns to whip up blueprints for the state-of-the-art facility.
It serves 10 states, can store up to 1 million tires, load or off-load 100 trucks a day from 84 loading docks, and sustains about 225 jobs-an important fact in today's economy.
Just as expansive as those stats is the tire maker's new far-reaching ``rolling'' ad campaign-emblazoned on the sides of a fleet of BFS tractor-trailers that will ply the nation's highways. But more on that in a moment.
In a recent visit to the new warehouse, even more impressive than gleaming canyons of tires on towering metal racks in a structure two football fields wide and three fields long was the spirit of family among employees and BFS customers.
``Firestone is so strong and gives me so much support,'' said Tom Paris, the affable owner of Tom's Tire & Service in Hillsboro, a town of about 8,000 people about an hour south of Dallas.
``I used to feel I'm just a little bitty duck in a big pond,'' Mr. Paris added. ``Now I feel like a CEO. I feel like I actually belong and my opinion matters to them.''
The tire veteran-he started in 1969 and gleefully observed, ``Once you get this carbon black in your blood, you can't get it out!''-said his sales increased 12 percent in May.
Mr. Paris gave part of the credit to BFS, which let him use its promotional ``Bigfoot'' monster truck at his store for three days. ``It brought people in to the town from all around,'' he said.
Another independent dealer, Barry Harmon, also lauded the tire company for outstanding service. Mr. Harmon, who, with his father runs Dayton Tire Sales in Sherman, Texas, said having ``fantastic'' tires like the Bridgestone Dueler Revo is even better.
``It handles wet roads like there's not even water there,'' he said. ``I put them on my three-quarter-ton Ford pickup, and it's the best handling tire I've had on there.''
Like Mr. Paris, Mr. Harmon predicted that deliveries of tires and parts (the center also warehouses its own line of auto parts) would get even better now that the gargantuan facility is on line.
To celebrate the newest of seven such distribution sites nationwide, Bridgestone/Firestone threw a grand-opening bash June 6. But some sly event planner apparently realized that even heaps of down-home Texas barbeque and a name like Ross Perot Jr. (the developer and landlord) have only so much PR firepower. So instead of relying on the requisite ribbon-cutting for a ``grip-and-grin'' photo op, Bridgestone/Firestone staged a drive-by for onlookers.
With officials still on the podium, a fast-moving, sparkling all-black tractor/trailer rig swept into view, air horn blaring. In a flash, puzzlement became applause and whoops as delighted guests took in the scene-actually scenes-before them.
The trailer was decked out in Bridgestone/Firestone's new ``colors,'' a montage of the manufacturer's high-profile products-Firestone on one side; Bridgestone on the other.
And the company's new marketing initiative makes no bones about playing up its racing heritage. Motorcycles; Ferrari's new ultra exotic, the Enzo; Grand Prix racer-even a depiction of Firestone founder Harvey S. Firestone and one of his earliest tires-adorn either side of the trailers.
The tractor wasn't left out. A distinctive tread pattern of the appropriate brand creates a stylized ``racing stripe'' along the cab.
``Whether it's the images that portray our long-standing relationships with well-established American brands-some tied to our long history in racing-or others that reinforce our legendary past, these collages carry a powerful message: Bridgestone and Firestone brands are an integral part of American culture,'' said Mark Emkes, the company's chairman, CEO and president.
Mr. Miller, noting that more than 200 of the rolling billboards will be produced, said, ``These are perhaps the coolest-looking 18-wheelers you'll see on the road.''