LAS VEGAS—This gambling mecca hasn't been all that kind to independent tire dealers over the years, but Jeff and Roshie Weightman are trying to buck the trend here by focusing their dealership, Tire Works Total Car Care, on customer service and catering to the growing suburban areas.
Starting with the opening of their first store in North Las Vegas in late 2003, the Weightmans have added a dozen more stores in the past four years and are scouting metro areas in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado for their next expansion.
The couple—they were married in 2001 when Jeff still worked for Wheel Works in California—truly are business partners, with Roshie handling finances, human resources and legal and her husband looking after sales, marketing, etc. The Weightmans' company, Morpheus Investments Inc., which does business as Tire Works, should hit $45 million in sales this year, they said during an interview with Tire Business at their headquarters store on West Tropicana Avenue in southwest Las Vegas.
Why Las Vegas?
“We scouted a number of locations throughout the Southwest,” Ms. Weightman said, “and Las Vegas seemed attractive because of its growth, demographics, etc.”
The city's metropolitan area is growing by more than 30,000 individuals a month, according to Census Bureau data.
The Weightmans have built their 14 stores—the 14th is due to open before year-end—largely outside of the Las Vegas “beltway,” the I-215/I-515/ Nevada 95 highway corridor around Las Vegas proper. They are considering two more locations in the area.
By concentrating on the rapidly expanding Las Vegas suburbs, the Weightmans are hoping to avoid the pitfalls that have tripped up other dealers who have taken on “The Meadows.”
The upstarts claim they have changed the way tire dealers do business in the Valley, starting with keeping their shops open on Sundays, one of the first of the major dealerships in the area to do that. Now most of the competition is also doing so, they said.
Tire Works stores are open 363 days a year, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stores are open 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The dealership's 140 employees all work Sundays on a rotating basis.
In addition, they're building a solid revenue foundation by courting local small- and medium-sized businesses and their employees, according to Barry Temple, a company vice president who oversees commercial accounts. He claims this aspect of the local tire market was underserved in years past.
Because the business was solidly capitalized from the beginning, TireWorks is able to work with essentially no debt, allowing it to negotiate favorable terms with suppliers and then passing along the savings to customers, Mr. Temple said.
The 14 Tire Works stores are nearly carbon copies of each other, down to the Italian marble floors in the waiting rooms and checkered-flag motif in the service bays. Each store is roughly 5,800 square feet with seven service bays, including one dedicated to alignments. The couple designed the stores themselves.
The Weightmans said they discovered that since many of their employees are also new to the area, the dealership personnel have become family, and as such the husband-wife team have extended familial gestures to employees on occasion as the situation dictates.
On the walls of the conference room at the headquarters store are pictures of the Weightmans, who have no children of their own, at employees' weddings, christenings, etc.
The couple also got the Tire Works name into play rapidly in the area by supporting a number of charities and good causes, including the local rape crisis center, Christmas Angel, Coats for Kids, local police charities and others.
Tire Works has attracted its share of Las Vegas' celebrities, ranging from Wayne Newton—who uses a local Tire Works store for all of his ranch's vehicles—to rapper/reality show star Flavor Flav—who drops by his local store regularly to hang out with the staff.
The dealership is a Bridgestone/Firestone Affiliated Dealer but also carries Continental, Fal¬ken, General, Hankook, Pirelli and Yokohama tires, along with custom wheels. It offers a wide range of automotive services as well. Service accounts for about 60 percent of revenue, Mr. Weightman said, and is critical in the area because the harsh climate takes its toll on vehicles.
“We want people to see us as a one-stop shop for tires and service,” he said.
Mr. Weightman began in the tire business in 1979 as a tire installer at a Winston Tire Co. store in California. He moved on to AKH Co. Inc./Discount Tire Centers in 1987 and stayed there until 1995 before moving on to Wheel Works.
He said he developed his business plan by adopting the best business practices he experienced at his previous employers and blending them. One ingredient familiar to customers from California is the “57 reasons” to visit the dealership posted on its Web site, www.tireworkstcc.com. These mimic closely a similar feature Wheel Works posts on its Web site.
The Yellow Pages lists more than 200 businesses under “tires” in the Las Vegas metro area. The largest competitors, by number of stores, are: Discount Tire Co. Inc., 19 stores; Big O Tires Inc., 17 stores; Bruce Scher Goodyear, 12 stores; Ted Wiens Tire & Auto, 11 stores; Pep Boys—Manny, Moe & Jack, eight stores; Precision Tune Auto, seven stores; and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Tire Lube Express, five stores.
Those familiar with Las Vegas are aware of the difficulties others have had trying to make it there. The Big O stores have gone through a number of ownership changes, and today TBC Corp. owns the stores there.
Goodyear's Las Vegas stores also have gone through a number of owners, from Goodyear corporate to Mountain View Tire to the current operator, California's Bruce Scher Tire.