This story is the latest in MTD’s exclusive series of articles about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting independent tire dealers. Stay tuned to www.moderntiredealer.com for more!
Schnipke Brothers Tire’s consumer tire business has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. But the single-location dealership also has found two bright spots during the crisis: farm and commercial truck tire sales.
“We are still putting on new sets” of passenger and light truck tires – “but maybe one or two a day, compared to 15-plus on a normal day,” according to Kris Schnipke, who owns the Kalida, Ohio-based dealership with his brother, Keith.
“Thankfully, the weather is starting to turn, so a lot of area farmers are getting their equipment ready for spring and we have been able to continue our service calls on new farm tires and repairs,” he says.
“We have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of farm tires we have done and continue to do. Compared to last year, with such a wet spring and tanking grain prices, we are currently doing well. It just so happened that when things got very slow with passenger tires, the ag tire side started to pick up.
“And our commercial tire accounts are still moving supplies, so that has been helpful when it comes to income generation.” (Schnipke Brothers Tire, which was profiled earlier this year on www.moderntiredealer.com, works with a lot of owner-operators and other small trucking operations.)
Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, was ahead of the national curve in issuing COVID-19-mandated, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, taking action as early as mid-March.
“We knew we had to make some changes to make sure our employees and customers would be safe while visiting our store,” says Chelsea Schnipke, who handles marketing functions for the dealership.
“We decided to lock all the entrances into our buildings and have put new signage on our doors, requesting that customers stay in their vehicles and (telling them) that we will be out to check on them shortly.
“Our hope is that we are cutting down on germ transmission by… eliminating the spread in the showroom. Not having to drive multiple vehicles per day also should cut back on the possible transmission of COVID-19” to the dealership’s employees.
“We’re also letting people know about our new procedures when they call in to talk with us,” she notes.
The dealership’s COVID-19 policies are posted on its Facebook page “and we have made a large sign asking customers to stay out of our shop.
“This has been helpful since we have large garage door bays and now that the weather is getting nicer. Sometimes these doors stay open all day long. We also are planning on using traffic cones to block the entrances to our service bays.”
Other than the loss of consumer tire and auto service revenue, the hardest aspect of the COVID-19 crisis has been “trying to adapt to missing all of the face-to-face time with our customers that we usually have,” says Kris.
“For 20 years, we have been trying to get customers into our doors and our business. Now, with the flip of a switch, we are doing all we can to keep them out.”
His advice for fellow tire dealers? “You have to do what works best for your own business. We are all in this together and we are all going to hurt after this. But the sooner we can stop this disease, the sooner we can all get back to opening our doors they way we’ve always intended.”
Other stories in this series: