Retail

From Wheels to Tires: RNR Tire Express Reaches 100 Stores and Changes its Name

Bob Ulrich
Posted on February 6, 2018

Matt King (left, pictured with Reggie Goodwin, manager of the 100th store) started with RNR as a tire technician. He is now a regional manager.
Matt King (left, pictured with Reggie Goodwin, manager of the 100th store) started with RNR as a tire technician. He is now a regional manager.
Hurricanes directly affected a number of RNR Tire Express outlets in September, whether they were existing stores or under construction.

That includes the recently opened 100th store, located in Sarasota, Fla.

But they were back up and running within a couple of weeks, so it’s time to give the milestone store its due. It is one of 15 company-owned stores; the other 85, under the direction of SPF Mgt. Co. LLC, are franchise operations.

The brand started out as Rent-N-Roll Custom Wheels and Performance Tires in 2000, with wheels getting the top billing. Seventeen years later, the name has evolved into RNR Tire Express.

“We believe the future is tires,” says Larry Sutton, the company’s founder and president.

History repeats itself

Larry Sutton previously owned Champion TV and Appliance Rentals, which was his first rent-to-own business. Selling the business in 1997 did not dampen his entrepreneurial spirit, however.

So he started fresh with Rent-N- Roll Custom Wheels and Performance Tires three years later.

“We started out in the wheel business, not the tire business,” says Sutton. “At the time, aftermarket wheels were a $1 billion market and growing exponentially.

“Custom wheels were prominent in urban songs and culture. The only reason we sold tires was because they were needed for the upsized wheels.”

When Vince Ficarrotta, a former employee of Sutton at Champion TV and Appliance Rentals, came on board two years later, the wheel industry was still on the upswing.

NR Tire Express founder and President Larry Sutton (right, with Randy Cabrera III) is very involved in everyday operations, including planning, training and vendor relations. The company has a comprehensive training program called RNR University, which combines digital and onsite learning opportunities that are tracked and measured.
NR Tire Express founder and President Larry Sutton (right, with Randy Cabrera III) is very involved in everyday operations, including planning, training and vendor relations. The company has a comprehensive training program called RNR University, which combines digital and onsite learning opportunities that are tracked and measured.
“When we started with the wheel model, that was the time when the industry was going through significant growth,” says Ficarrotta, vice president of franchising. He is also the “F” in SPF Mgt. Co., which stands for Sutton (Larry), Petco (Linda) and Ficarrotta.

“It just kept growing through the next five to seven years. We kept riding the waves.”

He was put in charge of franchising the new rent-to-own concept. Mike Kent, who had been influential in convincing Sutton to start franchising Rent-N-Roll, was the first franchisee.

The name game

There have been three different changes to the brand name over the years. The original Rent-N-Roll Custom Wheels and Performance Tires transitioned into RNR Custom Wheels and Tires.

The focus on wheels began to change in 2008 during the Great Recession when the tuner craze and the custom wheel boom leveled out.

“It became very obvious if we were going to survive, we were going to have to find a way to penetrate the passenger tire business,” says Ficarrotta.

Eventually the brand evolved into RNR Tire Express, which markets all major brand name tires with a strong focus on brands such as Nexen, Yokohama, Toyo and several others. Interestingly, RNR Tire Express continues selling as many custom wheels as ever; however, they have grown their volume by adding focus on passenger tires.

Larry Sutton’s favorite responsibilities are visiting stores, attending grand openings and meeting as many new associates and customers around the country as possible. The average inventory per RNR outlet is 100,000 tires.
Larry Sutton’s favorite responsibilities are visiting stores, attending grand openings and meeting as many new associates and customers around the country as possible. The average inventory per RNR outlet is 100,000 tires.
“Whenever possible, we use economies of scale to get the best price,” says Sutton. “We do act as a buying group in many instances.”

Although all the stores operate similarly, the franchisees have some freedom to meet the needs of their customers in their areas. For example, the brands they offer can vary by region, dependent on distribution channels.“We’re not a typical do-as-we-say franchisor,” says Sutton. “We believe in entrepreneurship and have created a culture where everyone’s voice and ideas are heard.”

All the stores offer guaranteed low prices on all their products. “We will beat any local competitor’s price with a written quote,” says Sutton. “And we include free installation.”

If the tires are rented and returned, the company’s policy depends on the condition of the tire.

“If they have an adequate amount of tread, we will re-sell them at a discounted price,” says Sutton. “If not, we dispose of them.”

The cost of becoming an RNR Tire Express franchisee is $35,000. The franchise fee per store drops as a franchisee becomes a multiple store owner.

1 store: $35,000

2-3 stores: $30,000

4-11 stores: $20,000

12-over: $3,750

There is also a royalty fee per store: 5% of total revenue.

Corporate vs. independent

The corporate stores are important to the growth of the company, says Ficarrotta. “Our corporate stores allow us to beta test various concepts and develop rich training programs. It keeps us at the forefront of what our franchisees are going through because we experience it ourselves.”

In addition to corporate stores, RNR Tire Express partners with 20 different franchisees. It operates in 22 states.

“Between now and the end of 2017, we are anticipating 15 store openings, with another eight slated for the first quarter of 2018,” says Sutton.

“We are excited to bring our quality service and affordable payment options to hundreds of new markets over the next several years.” ■

3 Franchisees, 51 Stores

RNR Tire Express is the nameplate on 100 stores, 85 of them franchises. Three of the franchisees account for more than half of the total outlets.

1. Rental Concepts LLC, dba RNR Tire Express, Fayetteville, Ark., David Harrison, president (21).

2. Rims USA LLC, dba RNR Tire Express, Spartanburg, S.C., Chris Raffo, owner (18).

3. Gulf Coast L&P Inc., dba RNR Tire Express, Moss Point, Miss., Shannon Strunk, owner (12).

The fourth largest franchisee, RNR of Virginia LLC, dba RNR Tire Express, is run by Richard Rose, a co-owner of eight RNR outlets. They are based out of Norfolk, Va.

Related Topics: Bob Ulrich, Larry Sutton, Matt King, Mike Kent, Rent-N-Roll, RNR Tire Express, RNR Tire Express and Custom Wheels

Bob Ulrich Editor
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