Kurt Emans is still trying to figure out why he waited so long to add a seventh, all-retail outlet on the heels of an expansion of his retreading business.
``If retreading hadn't grown at the rate it'd grown, we probably still wouldn't have done it,'' said the president of Easter Tire Inc. in Lima. ``With the amount of traffic flow (at the new store), it's nothing to have 16, 17, 18 people just looking around.''
Easter Tire added the seventh outlet when the company needed to expand capacity at its Lima retreading facility to accommodate new customers. A retail center previously had been enclosed in the retreading facility, but it was moved out so the space could be absorbed for manufacturing. Most of the retreading growth was from existing Bandag retread customers that switched to Easter Tire from other commercial dealership retreaders.
But since the all-retail outlet opened Nov. 1 in a refurbished building that previously had housed a machine shop, Mr. Emans said business has been booming. In the first week alone, he said the center put on 436 tires.
``Business has been great,'' he said. ``It's nice to see the existing customers that you have, (and) it's nice to see the new faces that are coming in, too.''
Easter Tire sells Kelly, Cooper, Michelin and BFGoodrich brands in passenger tires and Bridgestone, Kelly, Michelin and BFGoodrich commercial tires along with Bandag retreads.
While the benefits of the retail store were quickly noticeable, the work to convert the building didn't happen as fast. Mr. Emans said work on the facility took about nine months and lots of resources to complete. The company knocked about 60 feet off the front of the building, put doors in, converted windows to doors and installed a myriad of equipment.
Easter Tire also added a rock display featuring about 70 spotlights shining on light truck tires. Black paint throughout the showroom lends to a warehouse feel, Mr. Emans said.
Though converting the one-story building took so much time and work, he said the brick structure was built so well that he didn't want to tear it down and start from scratch.
``You couldn't have duplicated this structure for a fraction of what it would cost to build something like this new,'' he said.
Though the new store is only about 12 blocks away from its former location, Easter Tire employed several advertising techniques to get customers over to the new location. Mr. Emans said he ran lots of local advertising, put up billboards and signs at the other stores and hung banners on the new store as crews worked on it.
``We just flooded the airwaves as far as radio goes,'' he said.
Close to the opening date, workers armed with maps were at the old location to help any customers who needed them, although few did since they already had been anticipating the new opening, Mr. Emans said.
The transition to the new store also was aided by hiring the outlet's managers about six to eight months before the opening. Mr. Emans said they were assigned to other stores to learn the company's computer system, pricing structures, policies, products and culture.
By the time the new store opened, they already had been trained, he said. ``So it wasn't like starting with people with zero experience.''
A final component of the conversion was customer feedback, Mr. Emans told Tire Business.
For example, many customers reported they wanted to see their vehicle being worked on, he said, so Easter Tire installed a 12-foot-tall, 60-foot-wide glass wall showcasing the tire service.