U.S. Autocare L.L.C., which operates 13 Big O Tires Inc. franchise stores in the Detroit area, is negotiating with Kmart Corp. for another former Penske Auto Centers site in Utica, Mich.
``If we can come to some terms and get everything done, we'd like to get that store (in Utica) maybe open for March 2004,'' said Stephen Wilson, president of U.S. Autocare. He said he met with Kmart officials Jan. 8 and will continue discussions on the 7,000-sq.-ft., 10-bay shop attached to the mass retailer's store.
U.S. Autocare entered the Michigan market in 2003 by purchasing some former Penske locations from Kmart and converting them into Big O stores.
Mr. Wilson noted that if Kmart ``is willing to work with us on the rate and/or square footage allocation, that would be a great location for us.''
He said there is a lot of growth and new construction in the Utica area, and it is his goal to continue to grow his Big O stores in the Michigan market, opening five or six more stores in Michigan in 2004.
``We'd like to be at 20 by the end of the year,'' Mr. Wilson said. ``Obviously, a lot of factors go into that, like finding the right locations, getting Big O's approval. It's not carte blanche to get that.''
U.S. Autocare also is looking at potential sites in Chicago as well and is negotiating with Kmart on several sites there, he said. He'd like to open two Big O stores in northern Indiana and four in the Chicago metro area, but he said he still needs the approval of Big O as well as its parent TBC Corp., which already has many former National Tire & Battery stores in Chicago.
``We're waiting to see what's going to be the next step from Big O and TBC,'' he said.