FREDERICK, Md.Even though Rice Tire Co. has reached a major milestone in 2016celebrating its 60th anniversarythe tire dealer/retreader isn't idling and relying exclusively on its history for continued success.
The company, which operates 10 locations across three statesfive in Maryland, four in Virginia and one in Washington, D.C.has traditionally focused primarily on the commercial tire market. But coinciding with a rebranding effort in 2014, the dealership has pushed more heavily into the retail segment.
According to Rice Tire CEO Chris Chase, the company has taken a multi-pronged approach to expanding its retail business over the last few years. Part of this effort was to enhance retail service training for the dealership's employees.
We started that about two years ago and have had very good success, he told Tire Business.
Rice Tire also has increased advertising geared toward retail customers and signed up several of its stores on Goodyear's Tire and Service Network retail marketing program. In addition, the firm has expanded its product offerings to include Continental-, Bridgestone-, Michelin- and Falken-brand consumer tire lines, Mr. Chase said.
Finally, the company has focused on enhancing its stores to better accommodate a retail business model.
Last year we added five bays onto our Cumberland, Md., store, Mr. Chase said.
Currently we are in the engineering stages of adding six bays onto our Frederick store.
We have also remodeled showrooms in Baltimore, as well as our Harrisonburg, Winchester and Brandy Station, Va., stores, he continued.
The combination of all these efforts has led to a sharp uptick in our retail business over the last couple of years.
Mr. Chase said the total investment for the expanded Cumberland and Frederick stores will be about $2 million.
He noted that Rice Tire generates approximately $60 million in annual sales, estimating that 70 percent of its business is in commercial, 15 percent retail and the remainder a combination of government and wholesale.
While Rice Tire has targeted growing its retail business, Mr. Chase said the company continues to seek opportunities to grow in areas such as retreading, OTR tires and mechanical service as well.
We are blessed to be in a region that is relatively recession proof, he said. As long as the government continues to spend moneyand they willthe economy here will be solid. We are in a good position both by adding and expanding services and by taking market share from competitors.
Rice Tire's most recent expansion came in 2014 with the purchase of Montgomery Tire Service Inc. in Gaithersburg, Md., and while Mr. Chase said there are no new locations in development he expects Rice Tire's store count to continue growing in the coming years.
We are always looking for opportunities to expand, but it's a challenge, he said.
The cost and availability of land in the Baltimore/Washington corridor makes it difficult to open a greenfield store, and with an acquisition we are usually in a bidding war with a national chain with deeper pockets than we have. Nevertheless, I'm confident we will be able to grow our store count over the next few years.
Rice Tire was founded by Donald Rice Sr. in 1956 in order to accommodate the growing local market for construction and commercial vehicle tires. Known through most of its history as Donald B. Rice Tire Co. Inc., the firm began doing business as Rice Tire in 2014 as part of a rebranding effort.
The company's founder died in 1987, but his youngest son, Ken Rice, continues as the company's chairman. The dealership's management team includes Mr. Chase, Ken Rice's son-in-law, along with Ken Rice II.
I've only been here for 20 of the 60 years, but it's been gratifying and a lot of fun to build on the foundation laid by the first two generationsDonald B. Rice, who founded the company, and his son Ken, who led and grew the company for many years, Mr. Chase said.
He noted that his favorite part of leading the organization over the years has been watching company employees create their own careers at Rice Tire.
Our longest-tenured employee, Maggie Buckholz, our vice president of purchasing, will celebrate her 40th anniversary with the company next year, he said.
We have many other 20- to 30-year employees, some of whom have never worked anywhere else. We also have an impressive group of younger associates who are capable and eager to lead the company over the next 10 to 20 years.
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz