Dan Clark, owner of Tire Warehouse Inc., set out more than two years ago to build a second location, and the end result is, for a tire shop, a unique building.
Mr. Clark, who has been in business in Brighton, Mich., for 34 years, talked with village officials in Lake Orion about his plans to build a new outlet. The officials mentioned they were trying to keep a ``heritage'' theme in the village, with buildings designed to look like those in the 1930s to 1950s.
The site Mr. Clark chose was near an old train depot, so he decided to fashion the new shop like a classic railroad stop. The showroom features high ceilings, hardwood floors and benches and even ticket windows that soon will have the characteristic frosted glass.
``(This is) the only time in my life I'm going to allow myself to get that crazy,'' Mr. Clark joked as his voice echoed off the cathedral ceilings.
He and his wife Jan collaborated on the designs with two architecture professionals whose focus was restoring old train depots. The four worked closely to fit a practical tire shop into the nostalgic design.
Mr. Clark borrowed the general layout of some car dealerships, where customers enter the building on one end and leave through the other, putting the bays and warehouse out of the immediate showroom area. The shop also has an area for medium and heavy-base truck work and recreational vehicles.
Besides the design, though, Mr. Clark faced several challenges with the building. The location was one of the few commercial sites available along a well-traveled thoroughfare with some 80,000 cars passing a day. But it also was a 4.5-acre swamp.
The finished building-which opened three weeks ago-isn't even technically resting on the ground. It's supported by metal pilings driv-en about 150 feet into the ground.
``I kind of did the impossible, but it came out absolutely gorgeous,'' he said.
Mr. Clark is still working on some details. He hopes eventually to have railroad tracks in front of the shop complete with a boxcar.
While it turned out beautifully, it probably will be the last of its kind-at least for Tire Warehouse. The building cost about $3.5 million.
``We kind of threw money to the wind. Literally,'' Mr. Clark said.
He's comforted, though, since the dealership has seen several record-setting days since the new store's opening. And those are records set over the business' 34-year history.
``We're so busy, maybe the novelty of the shop is part of the attraction, so maybe for that reason it's paying off,'' he said.
With his focus the last couple years on building the outlet, Mr. Clark hasn't had much time to market his service to fill tires with nitrogen. But almost every tire bought at the shop rolls out filled with nitrogen-and customers pay $3.95 per tire for the fill-ups.
``If you're a tire store and you're not doing the nitrogen thing, you're way behind the curve,'' Mr. Clark said, citing less pressure fluctuations and less oxidation as nitrogen's prime benefits.
Tire Warehouse is 60-percent automotive service and 40-percent tire sales.
The dealership also has seen an improvement in its business from its association with Tire Alliance Groupe (TAG). Mr. Clark said he's the current president of the Great Lakes Tire Group-some 30 small dealerships that grouped together in order to join TAG. Mr. Clark said his five-year involvement with both groups has helped his business significantly.
``It's the reason I was able to do this,'' he said, referring to his new shop.