PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.2016 has been an active year for TBC Corp.'s Big O Tires L.L.C. franchise network, with five new franchisees joining the brand and five existing franchisees opening or reopening stores in their respective markets.
The biggest change came in Nevada, where Los Angeles-based businessman Mark Rhee took over 11 TBC-owned Big O locations in Las Vegas and added a 12th store in nearby Henderson, Nev., during the summer.
TBC had controlled the Las Vegas stores on and off since the late 1990s, as attempts to re-franchise them did not pan out.
There are nine other Big O outlets in Nevada operated by other independent franchisees.
The other new converts to Big O are long-time independent dealers in Arizona, California, Indiana and NevadaPreston and Melissa Alder in Safford, Ariz.; Bill Clark in El Cajon, Calif.; Joe Peil of Noblesville, Ind.; and Dawneen and Blake Lambert of Winnemucca, Nev.
In addition, franchisees or franchise partnerships in California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah opened or reopened stores in their respective home territories.
With these openings, Big O Tires has 392 outlets in 19 states, including two corporate-owned locations.
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In Arizona, the Alders converted Boulevard Tire & Service, the independent tire store they'd operated together for the past 22 years, to Big O Tires.
The store, which reopened as a Big O outlet at the beginning of June, has six service bays, three of which are dedicated to tires and lube. The dealership offers a full array of undercar- and drivetrain-related automotive services to complement its tire business.
By switching to Big O, I get the best of both worlds, Mr. Alder said. I still get to be the local business owner in my community with all the benefits of being part of a national chain.
The Alders took over the businessthen much more an auto parts and auto repair facilityfrom Mrs. Alder's father, Bruce Dodge, Mr. Alder said. Mr. Dodge, in turn, had acquired it in the late 1970s from the shop's original owner.
Over the years, the Alders shifted the business' focus more toward tires, with an emphasis on the commercial side of the businessagricultural, mining, construction, etc. Safford is a community of nearly 10,000 located about 165 miles southeast of Phoenix and is supported to a great degree by the local farming and mining industries.
What was missing was the consumer side of the business, Mr. Alder said, and Big O has been super for us in this respect. They really drive customers to our door.
Mr. Alder and Big O came together after another Big O franchised location in nearby Thatcher, Ariz., closed its doors. Mr. Alder said initially he was approached about that location as a possible real estate investment, but then Big O approached him about the available franchise.
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Mr. Clark, who's been in the tire business since 1979, said the decision to convert his El Cajon, Calif.-based business, DeVore Automotive, was an easy one, describing the transition as a seamless experience.
All of the teams that I have had the opportunity to work with have been extremely detail-oriented, knowledgeable and helpful throughout every step of the process.
I applaud them for their efforts, Mr. Clark said.
The business operated as a NAPA Auto Care center under the DeVore Automotive banner. El Cajon is a city of about 100,000 inhabitants roughly 20 miles northeast of San Diego.
The store, which opened under Big O signage on March 8, has five service bays. It's the first Big O store in El Cajon, sixth in the greater San Diego metro area and 105th in California for the chain.
Bill's success in the automotive aftermarket industry speaks to his dedication to his team and to his customers, said Kevin Kormondy, executive vice president and COO of Big O Tires, who was scheduled to retire at the end of October.
His operational excellence, commitment to delivering exceptional customer service and knowledge of the industry will continue to benefit him as a member of the Big O Tires family.
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In Indiana, Mr. Peil converted his Joe's Auto Service Inc. repair shops in Noblesville and Carmel, Ind., to Big O Tires in early March, giving the TBC franchise program 20 outlets in the Hoosier State.
Big O Tires was a perfect fit, said Mr. Peil, who has operated a shop since 2001 and has been in the auto repair business for 20 years.
The breadth of product offerings, support from operations, solid and proven infrastructure, and their overall buying power as a leading franchise organization helped to make my decision an easy one and I am very confident in the decision that I have made, he said.
The TBC unit said Mr. Peil decided to join the Big O Tires franchise system after careful evaluation of the industry and different retail opportunities.
It's exciting to see successful independent operators like Joe join the Big O Tires organization, Mr, Kormondy said. We are committed to helping each and every one of our franchisees; from the beginning stages of evaluation through facility assistance and training, we're confident that our talented field support team can assist new franchisees to enhance the operation of their business.
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In Nevada, the Lamberts converted their retail store, which had been a Tire Factory affiliate for the past 17 years, to the Big O program.
As a Big O Tires location, I am able to offer the same exceptional quality of service that my community has come to expect from me, but I can now offer what I believe to be better products, better prices and better warranties, Mr. Lambert said in a statement.
In my opinion, Big O is the best in product, best in warranty from one side of the ocean to the other. I have never been around a more professional and supportive team, he added.
Tire Factory Group is in the process of converting its retail identity to Point S as part of its year-old alliance with Point S Group of France.
The Winnemucca location opened March 30. Winnemucca is a town of about 7,500 inhabitants in northern Nevada on Interstate 80.
The outlet will offer passenger, light truck, tractor, farm and mining tires, according to TBC, as well as automotive services.
It's exciting to see successful independent operators like Dawneen and Blake join the Big O Tires organization, Mr. Kormondy said.
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In Utah, Big O franchisees David C. and David L. Critchlow and James Miller opened their third Big O location, an eight-bay store in Riverton.
The new location is a greenfield site on the western side of Riverton, a community of about 39,000 residents south of Salt Lake City.
The Critchlows, father and son, and Mr. Miller have been partners for 21 years, according to TBC. Their other stores are in Draper and South Jordan, Utah.
We're excited to open another Big O Tires location, said David L. Critchlow.
We look forward to earning the business of our new neighbors while providing the great value and exceptional customer service that our customers have come to expect from Big O Tires.
The partners did not disclose the investment in the new location, which is the 42nd Big O location in Utah. It opened for business in April.
Our franchisees definitely recognize the value of our brand and, as a result, we're fortunate to have the opportunity to work with team members who represent our organization very well at multiple locations, Mr. Kormondy said.
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In New Mexico, longtime Big O Tires franchisee BBAC Group opened a six-bay Big O outlet in Albuquerque, the group's third in New Mexico and 14th overall,
The new store in Albuquerque is a converted Tire Factory outlet, which the former owner, Max Martinez, sold to BBAC following Tire Factory Group's decision earlier this year to change the group's identity to Point S.
Big O Tires is a strong organization made up of a wonderful group of franchisees with a solid track record, Mr. Martinez said. My confidence in the brand made my decision to sell to BBAC an easy one.
BBAC partner Scott Koldenhoven said that with the help of the Big O Tires organization, our team has successfully converted the existing Tire Factory location to Big O, and we're eager to exceed customer expectations as the 'Team You Trust' in the Albuquerque community.
The parties did not disclose the scale of investment in buying or converting the location, which had open service bays under Mr. Martinez's ownership.
BBAC Group, consisting of Big O franchisees Mike Pryor, Mitch Beranek, Keith Blake and Mr. Koldenhoven, also operates 11 locations in Colorado.
Mr. Koldenhoven, Big O's Point of Light award winner earlier this year and Big O's IFA franchisee of the year in 2014, has been a Big O franchisee for more than 28 years.
It is exciting to see longtime franchisees like the BBAC Group expand the Big O brand, Mr. Kormondy said. who is retiring as president and COO of Big O Tires at the end of October after 20 years with TBC/Big O and 27 years overall in the automotive aftermarket.
The new location is the third Big O Tires store in Albuquerque and 13th in New Mexico.
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In Colorado, franchisees Jim and Rich Lautzenheiser opened a greenfield store in Fort Collins, the third Lautzenheiser family Big O store in the Fort Collins area.
In Fort Collins, the Lautzenheiser brothers opened their store in a developing residential area in that city's southeast quadrant.
The store has eight service bays and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to support the business' full complement of tire and automotive services, the company said.
The Lautzenheisers, second-generation Big O franchisees, did not disclose their investment in the new store. Jim Lautzeneheiser owns two other Big O outlets in Fort Collins.
The brothers' father, Ron Lautz-enheiser, opened the family's first Big O store in Fort Collins in the late 1990s after retiring as a Big O Tire executive.
Jim Lautzenheiser has been taking over operating the stores on a day-to-day basis.
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Columbia, Mo.-based MFA Petroleum Co. opened a Big O store in Enid, Okla.its 16th outlet overall and first in the Sooner Stateand is evaluating options for additional stores in Oklahoma.
The opening really is a reopening, according to TBC.
The 5,700-sq.-ft., six-bay outletoriginally opened by another franchiseehad been closed the past few years.
MFA Petroleum is Big O's exclusive franchise partner for Missouri and Arkansas.
This store is in a prime location for success, and we look forward to opening more stores in Oklahoma in the near future, said Ed Harper, MFA Oil vice president of retail automotive.
Rusty Coats, MFA's director of operations, said MFA is committed to opening more stores in the coming five years in all three states where it operates.
MFA did not disclose its investment to acquire and upgrade the closed store, located on State Route 412 west of downtown Enid. Mr. Coats said MFA expects to hire a staff of 10 to operate the Enid store.
The other three Big O stores in Oklahoma are all in the Oklahoma City metro area. Ronnie Peacock owns the store in Edmond, while Craig and Joni Brown own the Mus-tang and Yukon locations.
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In California, a trio of Big O Tires franchisees has reopened an outlet in San Jose that had been closed, restoring the group's reach to 17 stores in northern California and expanding Big O's network to more than 100 locations in the Golden State.
The franchiseesChris Monteverde, Abe Matar and Savendra Duttreopened the store in August. The store is typical of a Big O Tires location with six service bays.
TBC did not elaborate on why the store had been closed or for how long.