CHANDLER, Ariz. — Big O Tires franchisee Tony Williams is ramping up the pace of expansion of his Chandler-based dealership, adding a 12th store via acquisition and breaking ground on stores Nos. 13 and 14, as well as a new headquarters and training center.
Mr. Williams, a Big O franchisee since 2006 and the Big O franchisee of the year in 2015, said 2020 thus far has been a "stellar" year for business as people are turning increasingly to traveling by car amid the concerns about and restrictions on air travel.
- This article appears in the Oct. 25 print edition of Tire Business.
"There's never been a better time to be in the tire business," he said in a recent phone interview with Tire Business.
Mr. Williams, owner and managing member of Arizona Central Auto Group L.L.C., said the acquisition of store No. 12, in Glendale, Ariz., was an opportunity that cropped up on short notice, as that location's owner was looking to retire.
The store spans 7,200 square feet and has nine service bays.
The Glendale store was closed for a short time while Mr. Williams' team upgraded that location to its standards.
In addition, the dealership has store No. 13 under construction in Gilbert, Ariz., and is about to break ground on No. 14, in Laveen Village, Ariz. he said, adding he expects to be at 16 stores by year-end 2021.
All of Mr. Williams' stores are in the Phoenix area. In all there are 56 Big O locations throughout Arizona.
In addition to the stores, Mr. Williams' company is building a 60,000- sq.-ft. office complex in Mesa, Ariz., which will become the firm's corporate headquarters and will include a dedicated training center.
The new structure will house 50 to 60 employees and provide training on multiple levels.
Mr. Williams said his team has employed the full gamut of COVID-19 safety measures — social distancing in the stores, contactless transactions with customers, use of personal protection equipment, etc. — to reassure customers.
He also took advantage of the federal Paycheck Protection Program funds to help bridge the period when business slowed in March/April and keep his staff on the payroll.
Finding and keeping reliable employees is a critical job, he said, and one of the key reasons for building a training center.
Mr. Williams, who was a district manager for Bridgestone Americas' retail business unit for 10 years before deciding to go open his own business, was recognized in 2015 by TBC Corp. and the International Franchise Association for his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for both his customers and his team.
Mr. Williams' dealership is one of six Big O franchisees ranked among the top 100 independent retail dealerships this year.
Arizona Central Auto Group stores generate more than $2.4 million in sales on average, split 45/55 between tires and auto service.