Mr. Ficarrotta had a conflict with attending the event and participating in a parade during the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa.
For you landlubbers, the festival is a weeks-long celebration of Tampa's pirate heritage (hence the naming of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL football team).
So Mr. Ficarrotta, donning his Captain Jack Sparrow outfit — a la "Pirates of the Caribbean" — stopped by the grand opening and stood outside to wave at passersby.
He also thought up an appropriate name for a tire shop pirate: "Captain Jack Spare." Get it?
The pirate became a treasured gimmick.
So now when a franchisee opens a store, Captain Jack Spare will visit and rally the crew, he said.
"I remind them we're here to have fun," Mr. Ficarrotta said, "but you got to be authentic and you got to be real.
"We're a tire store, so we got to know what we're doing, but let's have fun while we're doing it. So I come out — I'm an amazing Captain Jack, if I say so myself — and we have a blast doing it."
Captain Jack has appeared on a few local morning TV shows in conjunction with a grand opening event and he has appeared for a few customer appreciation or anniversary events at franchisee stores.
The main point is to attract attention to the store, he said.
"What Captain Jack is meant to do is, 'Hey, made you look! Now that I have your attention for a moment, let me tell you about this great program.'" he said.
"It often blows people away when I'm sitting (in the store) as a pirate and I might be talking to staff members about setup or how to handle customers and they're listening to this dreaded pirate," he recalled. "Listen guys, I've been doing this for 40 years, I think I know what I'm talking about — me, not the pirate."
When standing at the street corners, "I get the most satisfaction when I hear the honks, the waves. (Passersby) yell out, 'Captain Jack!' It's just fun and really just smiling and feeling good about it and getting people to notice, 'Hey, look! There's a new tire store in town. I wonder what that's all about?'" Mr. Ficarrotta said.
"I get a certain pleasure in knowing that there are at least two or three customers who will come in simply because they wanted to take a picture with Captain Jack. And I actually get to talk to them about our program and tires."
He admitted Captain Jack fans are usually female, but he has had a few men stop for a photo for their wife or girlfriend.
Mr. Ficarrotta has been with RNR since 2002, a year before the company started franchising its rent-to-own concept for tires and wheels. The dealership offers only mounting and alignment services.
RNR expects its network of franchised stores to grow in a few years with dozens of stores under contract for future development.
Mr. Ficarrotta also expects to add franchisees to the network.
"I think our value proposition to a candidate is somewhat multi-faceted," he said. "It's simply this: We are an internet-proof business model that is recession-resilient. We offer above-average returns on a product that is in regular and constant demand. ... Tires are going to be around a long time."
Unlike the seafaring pirates, Mr. Ficarrotta believes the RNR rent-to-own model has a promising future.
"The millennial population represents, I think for the first time ever, the largest share of the pie of income today," he said. "More people getting paychecks are millennials today than ever before and I think it's finally tipped the scales a little bit where the largest pie segment is the millennials.
"Millenials are very used to subscription-type services. They rent Netflix, they rent their phone, they potentially rent an apartment, you might lease a car — all these things are based upon budgets and payments," he said.
"And to think that somebody might want to do the same thing with tires and/or custom wheels is very logical. So I think that serving a segment of the population that's never been served before in this way is just going to increase. I think it will increase in popularity under this model or something similar."
He admitted a lot of people still don't know about RNR and its unusual business model.
"So they're like 'What, you lease tires? How does that work? Oh wait, there's a pirate. Let me go ask him,'" he said.