When Frank Brearley Jr.'s son got discouraged after one year of college, Mr. Brearley decided to work him so hard that returning to school would seem like a cakewalk.
The plan backfired, but it also led to a good chance that a third generation will take over the tire dealership that Mr. Brearley's father co-founded.
``I was hoping to give him a hard time about it, and he felt as though, `Hey, I can deal with this,''' Mr. Brearley said of his 21-year-old son, Frank, who now has worked at the dealership for three years.
Frank Brearley Sr. and Brian Caplan founded B-C Tire Service Inc. in 1968 in Piscataway. The nine-bay, 18,000-sq.-ft. single outlet location houses retail and wholesale businesses. The dealership sells primarily Hankook, Michelin, Kelly, Goodyear, Telstar, Bridgestone, Firestone, Continental and General. It also provides a full range of automotive service and is a member of the American Car Care Centers Inc. marketing group, though it does not sell the American brand.
After Frank Brearley Sr. retired in 1986 and Brian Caplan (together the ``B'' and ``C'' in the dealership's name) died in 1999, their sons-Frank Brearley Jr. and Joel Caplan-assumed control. Mr. Caplan is the president and manages sales and purchasing; Mr. Brearley is the vice president and handles internal issues such as health insurance as well as the service shop.
While Mr. Brearley's son already is getting his hands dirty in the business, Mr. Caplan said he's pretty certain one of his young sons may one day take his share of the reins.
``It's extremely likely this business will continue to be a family business,'' Mr. Caplan said.
He started working at the shop when he was 16. But he wasn't the owner's pampered son, he said.
``I vividly remember having to scrub the oil off the floor,'' Mr. Caplan said, laughing. ``I had the bottom-of-the-barrel job.''
Mr. Brearley had also worked odd jobs at the dealership in his teens, but he said his father encouraged him to go to college. After he earned a degree in accounting and found a job, a call from his father and the late Mr. Caplan opened a new opportunity.
``They painted a more definite picture than what I was looking at,'' he said.
Like his father, Mr. Brearley said he didn't want to force his children into the business. His elder son graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in computer engineering.
``It probably took me 20 years to make what he's making,'' Mr. Brearley joked. But even when his younger son questioned if college was for him, Mr. Brearley said he didn't try to win him over to the tire business. ``If they want it, they'll come for it,'' he said.
Mr. Caplan said he also doesn't plan to steer his children into-or out of-the tire business. His 18-year-old daughter plans to go to college for fashion design, and his 11-year-old son is too busy being a kid to decide on a career path. His youngest son-now 7-said at age 6 that he wanted to do what his father does, Mr. Caplan said.
``I don't know if he changed his mind since then,'' Mr. Caplan said, laughing.
He said the odd jobs he performed as a teenager helped form his work ethic, which would not have been as strong if he had been the stereotypical owner's son rising to power. He said he makes 40-45 sales calls a day and isn't daunted by days starting at 3:30 a.m.
``The opportunity was there (for better jobs), but that's about it,'' Mr. Caplan said. ``And I'm glad it was that way because it makes us...more appreciative of where we're at and it does something for your work ethic.''
He added that another, stronger force was at work.
``I wanted to do extremely well and sell as many tires as I could,'' he said. ``And it was not for the money, it was for that pat on the back from my father that was better than the money.''
He said he plans to do the same with his children, and because they're family, that means he expects more of them. ``It doesn't mean it's easier.''
Mr. Brearley said he is not aware of any morale problems from employees who feel slighted by family members. An important factor, he said, is to treat employees fairly whether in a family business or not. Mr. Caplan said the shop has little turnover, with some employees at 34 years of seniority.
``You pay them decent, you treat them decent,'' Mr. Brearley said.