After 65 years in business, Malerba's Silver City Tire Co. Inc. will ``retire,'' though Bob Malerba won't just yet.
Mr. Malerba, whose father started the Meriden-based commercial dealership in 1939, sold the three-outlet business to Bob Berlin, son of Tire Centers Inc. (TCI) founder Jim Berlin. The deal was finalized May 18 though terms were not disclosed. The name will change to Berlin Bandag Inc. immediately.
The deal includes a ``multiple-year agreement'' for Mr. Malerba and his wife Kitty, the office manager, to remain at the company. Mr. Malerba will be vice president of operations.
For both Mr. Malerba and Mr. Berlin, the deal represents their long-standing goals for the next step in their lives.
``My wife and I want to live our lives to the fullest,'' said Mr. Malerba, 57. ``And the business was allowing us to do that as it was running.''
But he worried that if a key employee left for some reason, he'd be plunged back into micromanaging the day-to-day operations. Also, he's taking on more responsibilities with the Tire Industry Association-he'll be president in 2006-and with his involvement with the International Game Fish Association. Since he got rid of his own boat, Mr. Malerba is a certifier in marlin fishing competitions.
``I want to start taking it easy before you get to that point that you say I should've started taking it easy,'' he told Tire Business.
After considering these factors plus the rapid consolidation of the tire business, Mr. Malerba, his wife and his accountant made up a list of companies with which he'd consider merging. Soon after, his No. 2 choice asked for a meeting.
Mr. Berlin had stayed with Michelin North America Inc. after the tire maker bought TCI in 1999, last serving as TCI's vice president of Northeast commercial stores. He left that post in December. After working for his father since the elder Mr. Berlin founded TCI in 1986, Bob Berlin, 38, said he'd always wanted to own his own tire dealership. He began scouting New England dealerships since he didn't want to move his family.
``When you start to look around at what would be a good match with those parameters in place, Malerba Tire was a great match,'' he told Tire Business.
Other than the name change, Mr. Berlin said he plans few changes except some manufacturing updates for now. He will continue Silver City's Bandag franchise agreement. The dealership has three locations, including one retread plant.
``He's a Bandag dealer today, so I'll continue to be a Bandag dealer tomorrow,'' Mr. Berlin said, adding TCI had been a long-time Bandag dealer until shortly before the Michelin buyout.
Mr. Malerba said selling the family business was an emotional choice. But his son, Jeff, who is the commercial salesman for one of Silver City's stores, was not yet ready to take over. He also was concerned about his employees and discussed the impending acquisition with his staff before it was a done deal to get their input.
``Those are the same people that are going to make your business valuable; you better keep them involved,'' he said, adding Mr. Berlin shared his appreciation for the employees.
Indeed, Mr. Berlin said a major goal of his takeover is to retain good employees. ``If we can do that, we'll be fine,'' he said.