In 1954, Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc. opened its store in Kingston, Pa., just outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
That store has become a landmark, said Bill Williams, president and CEO of Jack Williams Tire, who also serves as board chairman of American Car Care Centers. But earlier this year the 20-store tire dealership chain decided it was time to expand in Kingston and make a stronger play for the growing high-performance niche of the market.
The week of Sept. 8, Jack Williams Tire held the grand opening celebration for its new, 20,000-sq.-ft. facility located ``just across the parking lot'' from the old store in Kingston, Mr. Williams said. The festivities started Sept. 8 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Jonathan Rich, president of Goodyear's North American Tire unit, and Jean-Michele Guillon, chief operating officer for Michelin Americas Small Tires. They ended Sept. 14 with a visit from the Goodyear Blimp, which offered free rides to customers and attendees.
Jack Williams Tire purchased the old Mack Truck building near its former Kingston store to create its new outlet, according to Mr. Williams. The remodeled building is a showplace facility with a 125-foot glass storefront and spiral duct work on the open ceilings. The 18-foot-high walls feature custom wheel displays ``from floor to ceiling,'' Mr. Williams said.
The store has 19 service bays, up from the 11 the old building had. Four of the bays-along with 3,800 square feet of the store-are devoted to high-performance tires and accessories.
``All of the equipment in this store is state-of-the-art, and the entire store is a high-tech design,'' Mr. Williams said. ``Our feeling is that growth in the market will be in high-performance and ultra-high performance tires, as far as tire units go. People try to distinguish their car from their neighbor's car-they can make their Honda or their Escalade sportier than their neighbor's.''
The Kingston store will sell not only tires and wheels for high-performance vehicles, but also spoilers and other accessories as well, according to Mr. Williams. He said the store will cater to three distinct markets in the high-performance field: younger motorists who drive smaller, sporty cars (Honda, Toyota, etc.); the sport-utility vehicle market; and ultra-high performance, upper-bracket cars, such as Porsche and Mercedes.
The company is betting that its bright, glamorous-looking new outlet will have much more appeal for high-performance enthusiasts than traditional tire stores or mail-order operations.
``Being over 70 years in business, we feel that people would rather see all the accessories displayed,'' Mr. Williams said. ``They can touch them, they can feel them, they can figure out if they're what they want.''
Although Jack Williams Tire has moved all of its Kingston operations into the new building, that doesn't mean it's abandoned its old, 7,000-sq.-ft. store. The company has leased that building to Aaron Rentals, an Atlanta-based, 700-store chain that sells and leases television sets, computers and appliances, according to Mr. Williams.
Also, the company has built a new, 3,000-sq.-ft. building in the middle of the complex between Aaron Rentals and the new Jack Williams Tire store. That building has been leased to Sound Solutions, a car stereo store, Mr. Williams said.
Jack Williams Tire, which was founded in 1929 by Mr. Williams' father, hopes the response to the high-performance section in the Kingston store will mandate similar displays in some of its other stores.
``Our intent is to get this under way and fine-tune it,'' Mr. Williams said. ``If we find there is a market, we will pick certain stores and add high-performance operations to them.''