CHICAGO — Belle Tire Distributors is about to add the Windy City to the Motor City and the Hoosier state to its address book, with plans to open up to 60 retail stores in the Chicago metro area in the coming three years.
The Allen Park, Mich.-based dealership, which has built a network of 35 stores in Indiana over the past six years, has five stores nearing completion in Chicago's southern suburbs, with plans to open four of them before year-end, starting with Naperville and Joliet in late October/early November.
Belle Tire's executive team greenlighted the move into Chicago a couple of years ago after studying the market there for nearly five years and — according to Don Barnes III, Belle Tire's president — determining it was, for the most part, a "fragmented market, with no clear leader" and up to half of the market served by relatively small dealers.
Belle Tire's assessment of the Chicago market is borne out to a large part by an independent analysis of the market by Tire Business staff.
The company's strategy is to start in the southern suburbs and expand westward and northward thereafter, Mr. Barnes said, with stores there in line with the dealership's existing store format — 10 bays (two with alignment pits) and up to 15 staff (four auto techs, eight tire techs and the rest sales, etc.).
All of the new stores are greenfield construction, Belle Tire's preferred method of growth. Mr. Barnes did not rule out growth by acquisition, but stressed any possible acquisition would have to make sense on several levels before the firm would go that route.
Mr. Barnes declined to provide details as to the scale of investment Belle Tire is budgeting for this expansion.