In 1996, a half dozen large independent tire dealers banded together to form a buying group that would “help them compete against warehouse clubs and the big box stores,” says Mark Rhodes, president of Plaza Tire Service Inc.
Twenty years later, the Tire Alliance Groupe has grown to 16 members, and its tire unit sales have increased fourfold. But the “benchmarking sessions,” as Rhodes calls them, have remained a key benefit of membership.
“I was a young man at the time, and we had Tom Gegax and Larry Morgan and Tony Michel in the room, the superstars of the independent retail market at that moment in time. And what they said probably influenced the way we changed and went to market.”
“We share the same pain and we also share the same gain,” says Joe Tomarchio, executive vice president of member Monro Muffler Brake Inc. Tomarchio and his brother Fred were owners of Mr. Tire Inc. when they joined TAG in 1996. Monro purchased the Mr. Tire chain in 2004.
“The trials and tribulations of running a business in this industry are so much alike whether you talk to a guy who has 10 stores or a guy who has over 50 like Plaza Tire, or Monro, which has over a thousand.”
The group recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at its annual meeting in New York City. President Paul Alves, however, would rather look ahead, not back. “We’re going to add some membership, but we’re going to add good partners strategically,” he says. “The East Coast, California and the Pacific Northwest are strong footholds for us. So is Texas. We don’t have a lot of representation in the Midwest.
“We’re also going to continue looking at exclusive lines, and not only private brands like our new Pantera. We are even talking with our branded vendors about proprietary brands within their own lineup.”Pantera is a new private brand tire produced for the group by Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. in Thailand. Four lines are available: the Touring A/S (60,000-mile limited wear warranty), Sport A/S, Sport SUV and Touring CUV A/S.
Three Pantera light truck tire lines will be available in the near future: the Supertrac M/T, the Supertrac H/T and the Supertrac A/T. Maxwell Wee, executive vice president of Sentury Tire USA Inc., says the A/T eventually will qualify for Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake certification.
TAG helped design the tires. Mike Pallotta, director of tire warehouse merchandising for Monro Muffler Brake, says the group tried to name the tires after their applications.
TAG also offers Black Lion, Autogrip, Achilles, Vee Rubber, Pirelli, Yokohama, Falken and Hankook brand tires.
“Our programs are always changing because the market is changing,” says Alves. “We have to adapt to that.”
Longtime members: TAG honors ties to its past
At its 20th anniversary meeting in September, the Tire Alliance Groupe (TAG) recognized a number of members for their loyalty.
- Monro Muffler Brake Inc.
- Plaza Tire Service Inc.
- MPD Tire Group
- Mavis Tire Supply Corp./STS
- Bridgestone Retail Operations/Tires Plus
- Free Service Tire Co.
- Tire Factory Inc./Point S USA
- United Tire Group
- Great Lakes Tire Group
Express Oil Change LLC/Tire Engineers became the newest member, No. 16, when it joined TAG in January.