WINCHESTER, Va.When Bill Tucker and Glenn Martin decided a few years ago to retire and put Winchester-based Bill & Glenn's Tire and Auto up for sale after nearly 35 years in business, they faced a dilemma common to many small business ownersfinding a qualified buyer.
Mr. Tucker said it took nearly three years for the owners to find their successors: Matt Kinkead, Jonathon Lemley and Neil Kiracofe.
During their long search, they dealt with some really bad buyers.
Mr. Tucker noted that when trying to sell a business, there are people who basically try to swindle you.
The big problem with selling anything is there's always people who are looking for a bargain and are not willing to pay any-thing actually.
After meeting with the trio of potential owners, the former owners felt comfortable selling the businessa predominantly Goodyear-affiliated retail store on one of Winchester's main thoroughfaresto the younger businessmen, who are all in their early 30s.
We decided to sell to the people we did because we thought they would carry on the exact same program as we were doing, Mr. Tucker said.
In fact, they kept our name, and I believe that they are dedicated to customer service and will do fine.
Besides carrying on the tradition, Mr. Tucker said they really do have good ethics and that's probably the most important part of running a business.
Mr. Kinkead said he had been working in the auto service business locally for 13 years writing service tickets and one of his brokers had told him about the opportunity to purchase Bill & Glenn's Tire.
He said he has known Messrs. Lemley and Kiracofe for years, and owning the shop together was just kind of fitting.
Mr. Kiracofe serves as a silent partner for the business. Mr. Lemley also owns a local mobile paintless dent removal company. Mr. Kin-kead works the day-to-day business. He said they took over the shop officially on Dec. 1, 2012, but he quit his job eight months prior to that to learn the business under the previous owners' leadership.
It took that long to go through all the processes with Goodyear and obtaining the franchise and getting all that kind of stuff squared away, which was actually the most difficult part of it all, he said.
It gave me a real, real, real unique opportunity because I got to be here kind of as an employee before I was the owner, so I learned all of the ways that the previous owners did things.
That included everything from helping somebody air up the tires to how they like to do their bills, Mr. Kinkead said.
It gave me a unique opportunity to either continue in their footsteps, or make a couple changes, which I thought would improve the way some things were done.
He said that a lot of people do not get that time and sometimes the selling of a business takes on the air of a hostile takeover.
If one of the local chain stores came in and bought the place out, they would have laid off all the staff, gutted the place, remodeled, changed the nameand that was one of the things the previous owners really didn't want to happen, Mr. Kinkead said. They had had plenty of offers to have that happen.
He said he and his partners did hire back all but one employee, and they added two well-rounded technicians who previously had worked with them. The shop has six technicians and one counterperson, along with the owners.
We tried to keep as many people as we could, he said. We didn't have to lay anybody off at the counter, which helps.
Mr. Kinkead said the combined experiences of the new owners has given them the ability to know what to do before they even took over the dealership.
We didn't really struggle with how to handle the day-to-day stuff. We didn't really struggle with how to treat customers, he said.
Mr. Kinkead said between January and September, the business had done more than $1 million in service business.
He added that working with the staff afforded the dealership the opportunity to pick up right where the previous owners left off with not even a one minute lull in business.
The new owners have made some improvements to the shop including an extra bayincreasing the number to sevenwhich serves as a certified, dedicated state inspection lane that helps speed up the local state inspection process, which was really jamming up the shop previously, Mr. Kinkead said.
The new owners also built a coffee bar and a long service counter for the customers to come interact with us here at the counter and be able to lay all their stuff out and talk and relax, he said.
Other enhancements include four leather chairs, new custom wall racks and a repainted interior.
Mr. Kinkead said that as the new owners head toward their one year anniversary, their next goal is to open a second location and cater to high-end vehicle maintenance and tires.
He said he has a European car background and would like to help those customers because the area is in need of more quality shops like that and the current location is too busy to stop and concentrate on a niche like that.