Tire Warehouse Central Inc. is in a ``growth mode,'' with three new stores scheduled to open in November and three more by mid-2006.
The new stores will push the 33-year-old dealership's network to 56 stores, according to President and CEO Bob Dabrowski, with about two-thirds of them company-owned.
Though the retailer continues to open new outlets, its store count is not changing much as it trims its franchise rolls. Mr. Dabrowski said that a few years ago Tire Warehouse had many small franchisees-mainly repair shops-that ordered so few tires that delivery became too expensive.
Tire Warehouse has been working to transfer some of those shops to wholesale accounts, minus the Tire Warehouse franchise banner.
``We can't handle that guy that buys a few tires a week, and you drive a tractor-trailer off the road and it costs you 10 bucks to deliver four tires,'' he said. ``I can't do that anymore.''
Including the three stores set to open soon, 36 stores are company-owned and 17 are franchises. In September 2003, Tire Warehouse had 27 company-owned outlets and 25 franchisees.
Mr. Dabrowski said he also took over three franchises this year, making them company-owned. In those cases, he said, the shops were large enough that he wanted them to stay under the Tire Warehouse banner, but the franchise owners wanted to leave the business for varying reasons.
He noted that building a new store costs in the neighborhood of $1 million plus product.
``How many people want to put that amount of money up?'' he asked rhetorically. ``It's scary, I guess.''
This process of righting the franchise ranks will continue for another year or so, Mr. Dabrowski said. But in 2006 he said the total number of stores will start showing a gain.
``The growth you see in the future will be stores added vs. stores traded,'' he explained.
Mr. Dabrowski said it's not clear what Tire Warehouse's balance between franchise and company-owned stores will be in the future. But in the meantime, his plans are all about growing.
``I can't come to work and just sit here and do nothing,'' he told Tire Business. ``That would be boring, just look at 50 stores. No, I want to grow so we're in the growth mode.''
Mr. Dabrowski, one of Tire Warehouse's founders in 1972 who bought out his partner in 1998, said his team of vice presidents also is committed to this growth.
They include Steve Chipman, Alex Lange, Bill Maloney, Mike Palotta and Steve McGrath. Messers. Maloney, Palotta and McGrath have each been with the company for more than 20 years.
For the time being, new stores will continue to be in Tire Warehouse's home turf of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Any ventures beyond these markets are not likely for at least another 15 months, Mr. Dabrowski said.
``We haven't saturated these states enough yet,'' he said.
The stores scheduled to open in November are in Worcester, Mass., and Woonsocket and Cranston, R.I. These are scheduled to be company-owned outlets, Mr. Dabrowski said.
Tire Warehouse, a member of Tire Alliance Groupe, sells primarily BFGoodrich, Continental, Dunlop, General, Goodyear, Michelin, Pirelli, Yokohama and Raceway brands.
The company's sales are primarily retail tires, with 10 percent coming from the wholesale business. Its retail sales also are 90 percent from tires. Tire Warehouse does not report its annual sales.