SHERWOOD, Ark. — In tire retailing, the store is often a family affair. So it is for Chris Edens, manager of Sherwood Tire Pros, whose grandfather Charlie Edens founded the business in 1982.
Charlie Edens is now semi-retired, and Chris' father, Kevin Edens, now owns the business. The younger Mr. Edens, who is now 33, has worked for Sherwood Tire Pros since he was 16, except for a short stint as a wheel specialist at American Tire Distributors Inc. It was expected that he would work in the family business, he said, but he always wanted to anyway.
"I've thought about doing other things, but I've always been here," he said. "I have a degree in drafting and design, but I never found anything in that field I wanted to do. I've just always enjoyed it here."
Asked what he likes best about the tire business, Mr. Edens said he's always been fond of the technical part of it.
"I'm a numbers-type person, and I like figuring out what's causing a problem," he said. "I like dealing with customers who are having problems that need to be dealt with.
"For us, it's always good to do one of two things," Mr. Edens said. "The first is fixing something that customers have taken to multiple places and haven't gotten it fixed.
"The second is when somebody's been told it will cost thousands of dollars to make a repair, and they bring it here and we tell them, 'No, we can do this for $300.'"
Just being dealt with honestly is something customers really appreciate, according to Mr. Edens. "They're so happy when you're honest with them, and that's nice," he said.
As for the biggest challenges in the tire business, Mr. Edens had one word: hiring.
"The biggest challenge 99 percent of the time is finding help," he said. That means finding people who are both reliable and know the job, he said.
Meanwhile, customers are changing rapidly, thanks to Internet access, according to Mr. Edens.
This isn't just seeking information about tires, he said, but the old-fashioned search for a bargain.
"For 99 percent of the people in the world, working on their cars is not something they want to be spending money on," he said. "They're much better educated about what they're looking for.
"But it's both a good thing and a bad thing," Mr. Edens said. "It's like WebMD — they read three experts and think they know everything."
On the other hand, social media is making things easier for both customers and the shop, according to Mr. Edens.
"People can email us at 2 a.m. to ask about a set of tires," he said. "It makes things a lot easier for them, because they don't have to take time out of their days."
In the case of annoying customers, Mr. Edens said, the only thing you can do is try to make them happy.
"Apologize, be nice, try to make it better," he said. "Whether we screwed up or they think we screwed up, we have to make sure we make it right."
Kevin Edens is an expert at dealing with fractious customers, according to the younger Mr. Edens.
"Dad handles 99 percent of the bad ones," he said. "He's very good at that. Again, we do whatever we can do to make them happy."
Most likely, Mr. Edens said, he will spend his career at Sherwood Tire Pros.
"It's good to come every day and work with Dad," he said. "Sometimes my grandfather comes in and works with us. It's good to work with family. It's peaceful here."