Major League Tire not only has opened both shops, giving it five company-owned Ohio-based locations, but it also has begun to franchise itself. Mr. Pennington said another individual who had owned a custom wheel company in nearby Salem Ohio, was looking to add tires and automotive service to his business. He sought out the Penningtons for help and support.
After navigating Ohio's franchise laws, a franchisor was born.
"It has worked out well for the franchisee and for us," Mr. Pennington said. "He would like to open another one, and now we have some other inquiries. We are interested in helping other people.
"We have buying power, and (others) gain from our experience."
The elder Mr. Pennington certainly has a wealth of experience, having worked in the tire and auto service industry right out of high school in 1973, changing tires at a Goodyear-owned store in Medina, Ohio.
In 1976, he was certified as an auto service technician, and eight years later, he was a certified master auto service technician.
Mr. Pennington, 65, spent several years working at dealerships across Northeast Ohio, finally settling at a Terry's Tire Town, where he was promoted to manage all retail operations.
In 2016, the first opportunity came along for the Penningtons to own their own dealership, purchasing a location in Mentor, Ohio, a city of 47,000 near Cleveland. A few months later, they opened their second location, in Massillon, and in 2017, opened a third location, in Hartville.
The opportunity to purchase both the Hovis Tire building and real estate, he said, was almost too good to be true.
"It has a big stock room, a beautiful customer waiting area," Mr. Pennington said, noting it has nine lifts and two alignment racks.
All six employees have been retained, and former owner Paul Hovis agreed to stay on for 30 days and still helps in the shop.
Mr. Pennington said that is the secret — "quality people is the ticket."
The Penningtons continue to call it Hovis Tire — "We're not scaring people away," he said — but the store eventually will be rebranded to Major League Tire.
Cortland is a town of about 7,000 located 20 miles north of Youngstown.
As the Hovis deal was coming into fruition, Mr. Pennington was approached about buying the former Terry's Tire Town location in Canton, where he once worked. Once the building's tenant, Monro/Mr. Tire, vacated the building, Mr. Pennington was ready to purchase both the building and real estate.
Major League Tire opened there in mid-August with five employees.
"(Both locations) already had great management and technicians on staff, making the transition pretty seamless," Justin Pennington said. "With the right people already in place, an acquisition really just comes down to putting our name on the building."
The Canton location was particularly attractive: The city is in the midst of constructing a $700 million, football-themed complex, called the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village powered by Johnson Controls.
Officials have plans to build a youth football sports complex; a waterpark; a seven-story, football-themed hotel and restaurant; a 75,000-sq.-ft. retail, research and office building; and a retail promenade, in addition to the existing football museum and 23,000-seat Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
"Business has been good," Mr. Pennington said. "There are a lot of professionals working here, and (officials) have done a good job of keeping business in downtown Canton. You don't see a lot of empty buildings.
"I think for a long time, we're going to be in the heart of it all."
One of the first items of business Mr. Pennington did at the location was salvage an 8-foot by 8-foot mural of a scene from the Indianapolis 500 race that had been given to the shop by Bridgestone Americas.
The original mural that had been on the wall when he worked there in the late 1990s had been trashed. But he found a second one in the storage area of the building. He said his wife spent days cleaning it and today it adorns the Major League Tire location.
"It's too nice of a piece not to display," he said.
And five locations fits Mr. Pennington's schedule perfectly.
"I've been spending a lot of my time in Cortland (at the Hovis location)," he said. "My goal is to spend one day a week in each one. I like to wait on customers."
Justin Pennington said the company has plans to continue to grow, but at a controlled pace. He said they have talked about scouting locations in Columbus and east of Pittsburgh.
It really just comes down to what is available," Justin Pennington said. "A big part of our success was saying 'no' to locations that weren't really what we were looking for. We don't have any concrete plans to open in a specific location or to have a certain number of shops, so we aren't rushing into anything that just doesn't make sense."
Major League Tire sells almost every brand of tire at its locations and participates in many tire companies' buying programs.
"We are also getting to the point where our volume is up high enough that we have a better relationship with most vendors, and can take advantage of bulk deals," Justin Pennington said, "while still having that small, family-run business feel."