Hoisting itself on the strong, expert shoulders of a couple of Goodyear retirees, Martino Tire Co. is poised to climb to ``the next level.''
Over the last several months the Miami dealership has added long-time Goodyear employees-retail and wholesale specialists-who Martino Tire Chief Financial Officer Sal Martino said should help the family-run business ratchet up both those operations.
Relying on the expertise of Menalco Solis, who joined Martino Tire last spring after 15 years with Goodyear's retail division, the dealership recently bought out Dison Tire Co. and its six retail locations in Jacksonville, Fla., boosting Martino's retail network to 24 stores.
``We've been in that area already as a wholesaler-actually, throughout the state as a wholesaler,'' Mr. Martino said. ``Now we're looking to get more into the retail end of the business up and down the east coast of Florida and eventually on the (state's) west coast, as well.
``We're in an expansion mode.''
He said Mr. Solis, with his many years of retail experience with Goodyear, ``put things in a different perspective'' for the dealership, which operates 23 retail stores and one retail/commercial outlet. ``He brings to us more structure, more experience, know-how and knowledge'' about retail.
``We've been a family business, and it's one thing to run things as a family. But when you want to expand you have to go to a different level,'' explained Mr. Martino, one of a triumvirate of brothers who run the dealership: Andy Martino is CEO and Ed is chief operating officer.
As the company continues to scout for new locations to either purchase or merge with, it's looking to add a few more stores along Florida's east coast before the year is up, he said. ``In the three or four months Menalco has been on board, we've been very happy with what he's done for us.''
In the dealership's wholesale area, Jim Ash joined Martino Tire in September. He worked for Goodyear in a number of areas, including wholesale, for 32 years. ``He'll oversee our wholesale operation and take us to another level there, too,'' Mr. Martino said.
The company has six distribution centers in Florida and is considering opening one or two more-``maybe not this year, but once we get more structured,'' he said.
The dealership had total corporate sales of $76.2 million last year and is projecting $84 million once the books close on 2004. Some 79 percent of its revenue comes from the wholesale operation, with retail comprising the remainder-about $16 million in sales last year.
Martino Tire's lone retail/commercial outlet, in Palm Beach, will remain an orphan for a while, with no current plans to expand commercial operations. But Mr. Martino said another commercial site might be added in 2006 in Fort Meyers on the state's west coast. There, Martino built a 40,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in 2001 on a five-acre tract of land it owns and is considering adding a commercial center onto that building.
One thing's for sure: The competition in the Sunshine State-with the likes of Tire Kingdom Inc., Bridgestone/Firestone's Tires Plus and other retail chain players continuing to expand-has been almost as fierce as the recent spate of hurricanes that have pummeled the state.
Counteracting that takes ad bucks, but Mr. Martino acknowledged the Miami market is pricey when it comes to solo advertising. So the dealership has hooked up with Goodyear service center advertising in the area. The partnership includes riding that marketing vehicle for some radio ads in conjunction with the Kelly brand as well as some flyers.
Much as he'd like to, Mr. Martino said he just can't swing any TV ads because they're ``too expensive.''
As for those hurricanes, the dealership lost one store, located right on the coast in North Palm Beach, after it was battered by both Frances and Jeanne as they blew through the South. Local authorities determined the outlet was damaged beyond the point of continued operation.
Mr. Martino is hopeful the store will be relocated within two to three months in the same area, though he wasn't sure if the company would build from scratch or buy an existing site. Either way, hurricane season should be over by then.