ROCKLAND, Maine — Eastern Tire & Auto Service Inc. values its employees so much that it has created a number of unusual benefits to reward its staff, including recently transitioning to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
President Alvin Chase Jr. said he opted to turn ownership of the 77-year-old tire dealership into an ESOP rather than sell the business to another entity.
Employees who have worked at the business for at least three years earn ownership shares in the business and thus the profits for their retirement.
"We have a long track record of making sure that our employees are well taken care of because they take such good care of us," Chase told Tire Business.
"This is just a natural extension of what we have always done, which is if you contribute to the success, you share in the riches of the success. So this is just an extension of the culture that we've had for 30 years."
That culture includes providing its 16 employees higher-than-average wages, no weekend hours, profit-sharing — and essentially free electricity for their homes via the dealership's recently built solar array.
Founded in 1946 and owned by the Chase family for about 45 years, the independent dealership provides auto repair and tire service in a single location in midcoast Maine.
"For 77 years, Eastern Tire & Auto Service has played a significant role in the lives of our employees, generations of customers and our community; my brother, our families and I are very proud of what the business has accomplished to date," Chase said.
"This transfer of stewardship is a natural progression. Because of this transaction, we know that the company will prosper and thrive for future generations, while continuing its culture of commitment."
Brothers Alvin and Aaron Chase are the third generation of their family to run the dealership, which was bought by their father, uncle and grandfather in 1978 after their grandfather had worked for the previous owners for decades.
Alvin Chase recounted that when he was in college, he had no interest in pursuing a career in the family business. But in 1988, after he completed graduate school, his father came down with an illness and asked him to help out at the business. Since he had a six-month gap before he planned to start a career, he came home to work in the dealership.
Then, he said, his father, Alvin Sr., had a "miraculous" recovery, worked a few more years and then retired about 2000. Alvin Jr. stayed on and took over the business.
"So my six months turned into 33 years. Of course they all retired, and they left me here alone," the younger Chase quipped, but added, "I'm not really alone. My younger brother is with me, and my son is here with us."
His brother Aaron is vice president and his son Ian works in the shop and at the front desk. Neither expressed an interest in taking over Alvin's duties as president, he said.