Steve Speake is just getting into the specialty tire business, yet he's already thinking about franchising and positioning mobile tire service trailers at motorcycle and dirt bike races across the nation.
Mr. Speake is starting a company called Wheel Works in Colorado Springs to service and sell tires exclusively to the ATV, motorcycle and dirt bike crowd. He estimated that he's two months away from opening a store as he's still waiting for an offer he put on a building. He already has a warehouse and his first trailer, which debuted as a mobile tire store at a local race track circuit Aug. 1. He said he plans to have four trailers total that can be racked up with various tires and sizes for any particular bike race to service the Colorado market.
``We will fit that bike to whatever the customer cares to purchase or they can ask for advice, and we can fit them with the proper tire for that bike,'' Mr. Speake said.
A motorsports fan since he was 14, he noticed how professional motorbike riders receive service and tires trackside, but the ``kids on the other side of the fence'' don't have the same service available to them.
``So I sat (at a track) one day looking at that thinking, `Somebody needs to take care of these other people who are really the ones spending the money because the pros aren't spending it,''' he explained. ``They're advertising it, but they're not spending.''
Mr. Speake, who owns a property management firm called Speake's Complete Property Service, said he has been researching and working on this venture for a little more than a year. He has been involved in racing all his life but never in the tire business itself. He has tire supply agreements with three distributors-Tires Unlimited of Dayton, Ohio, Evansville, Ind.-based Modern Tire Co. and Advantage Performance Distributing in Riverside, Calif.
For the past six months, Mr. Speake and his associates have received training on tire-changing equipment from Hennessy Industries Inc. out of its Denver office. Two of his employees from the property firm are joining him in the ATV and bike tire business, along with his 16-year-old son Shane.
The mobile trailers will carry five tire brands-Bridgestone, Maxxis, Goodyear, Dunlop and Michelin-and some accessories such as wheels, chains and sprockets, Mr. Speake said. ``Our goal is to market this in a fashion for franchising,'' he explained. ``We've created a package deal. Our trailers are outfitted with the latest aluminum cabinets. They've got the latest and best in tire-changing equipment and balancing.... Anybody can operate these trailers.''
But Mr. Speake doesn't want to limit his venture to Colorado Springs. He said he already is looking for a retail/distribution center in California, which is his next target once he establishes Wheel Works in Colorado. His plan is to sign franchisees in both states and sell them tires and trailers, then branch out into other states.
The franchisees can decide how they want to outfit the trailers-whether to carry a combination of ATV, motorcycle and dirt bike tires or only one or two of those options, according to Mr. Speake, who said a tire dealer is one of his franchise candidates.
On the retail end, Mr. Speake said he plans to section off his store by tire brand and promote each brand as well as educate riders on bias and radial tires. Once Wheel Works' Web site is complete, he said, a customer can enter information about a bike type and the site automatically will offer tire choices, ask for the customer's state and riding conditions, then recommend a proper tire fitment.
``Today's riders are so much more educated than yesterday's riders,'' Mr. Speake said. ``Today's riders are condition specific. With Wheel Works our goal is to educate the riders on what is available for them.''