Starting one tire dealership from scratch is tough enough. Imagine starting a second one — after sitting on the sidelines for five years! Steve and Cindy Moeller can tell you all about it.
Their single-location dealership in the small town of Flatonia, Texas, Steve’s Station, which opened in June 2018, is doing great business. But it might never have happened had it not been for a case of “homesickness,” according to Steve.
Like many second-generation tire dealers, Steve, now 58 years old, grew up in the auto repair business. “My Dad, Elton Moeller, started with a Mobil gas station in 1961,” he says. “I started out pumping gas and washing cars for him.”
In the late 1960s, seeing new revenue opportunities, Elton started to focus more on auto service and tires and less on selling gas.
He and his wife, Henrietta, ran the business until 2003, when they sold it to Steve and Cindy.
Taking it from there, Steve and Cindy added wheel alignments and undercar service “to help promote tire sales,” he says.
But after 10 years, the long hours began to take their toll. Steve was feeling burned-out. After discussing the matter with Cindy, they sold the dealership and he went to work as a salesman for a tire equipment distributor.
He hit the road for his new employer, visiting tire dealerships across Texas. After several years, Steve says he began to feel “homesick. I kept thinking about what my parents had created and I wanted to bring it back.”
He describes the feeling as a “calling.”
He and Cindy decided to sell tires again. They tried to buy their old store but the deal fell through at the last minute.
“We then decided to find a decent property, put up a new building and start fresh,” he says.
His brother happened to own some land near Interstate 10, a major highway that stretches from Florida to California and cuts through the southern part of Texas.
“We bit the bullet, bought the land, put up a new building, bought some equipment and said, ‘We’re doing this.’”
It didn’t take long for his old customers to find the new facility. “We had a trusted name in the community.”
And its location helped attract new customers. “Before, when we were downtown, we relied almost 100% on local business,” says Steve. “Where we are now, people drive in off the intestate and we can help them because we’re right there.”
‘Called to be servants’
Steve’s Station is a small operation that up until recently, consisted of three people: Steve, Cindy and an auto service technician.
The tech left, and at press time, Steve and Cindy were running the whole operation, with Cindy working the sales counter and writing up service orders and Steve turning wrenches in the service bay.
“We do everything except transmissions and engine overhauls,” he says. “We focus a lot on undercar service — suspensions, brakes and alignments. We also do oil changes, coolant flushes — all the usual service work.”
They carry three brands — Goodyear, Kelly and Cooper — “but we’ll sell whatever the customer requests.” (Steve’s Station is a member of K&M Tire’s Mr. Tire group, which gives it access to a wide range of brands, plus frequent deliveries.)
Business has been so brisk that Steve says, “I could hire two more technicians.”
In the meantime, he and Cindy have plenty of work to keep them busy.
Starting a new dealership from scratch — in their mid-50's — was extremely challenging, according to Steve. “I had a good job that was very rewarding. We weren’t in debt. Everything was great. But I felt like I had to do this.
“It was difficult, but I felt like we made the right decision. I’m a happier person and my wife is happier and we’re just tickled to do what we’re doing. I’m glad that God gave us the opportunity to get back in it.”
A devout Christian, Steve believes that tire dealerships and auto service repair shops serve a higher purpose.
“We’re not all called to be preachers, but we’re all called to be servants. And your business is somewhat of a ministry because you serve people. If do that, you will be rewarded. We want to make a living. But we feel that our main calling is to help others.” ■