Blueprint for success
On the outside, each of the 35 buildings is anything but nondescript. The distinct yellow, blue and red “The Tire Choice & Total Car Care” logo tells everyone they are tire stores designed for one-stop service, transmission and engine work included.
The blueprint for an average Tire Choice store calls for a 6,200-square-foot building, which allows for an inventory of between 1,000 and 1,200 tires. Some of the prototype stores cover 7,200 square feet; the flagship store in Oakland Park, Fla., near the company’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, is 7,300 square feet.
Almost all of the stores and the land on which they are situated are leased by Dan and Diane Hennelly, owners of Hennelly Tire & Auto Inc. The Hennellys are Modern Tire Dealer’s 2013 Tire Dealer of the Year Award winners (see our September issue).
In nine years, they grew from one Tire Choice outlet to 35. “Our goal now is 60 stores, but I believe we can get up to 100 stores,” says Dan, the company’s chairman and CEO. To get to 100, he admits they will have to expand outside of Florida.
They only own two of their locations. “You can’t own the property if you want to grow quickly,” says Diane, the company’s vice chairman and chief financial officer. “At a fast pace of growth, you have to use capital. Buying the building and the land uses a lot of capital.
“We didn’t borrow money to grow. We used our own capital.”
The majority of the leases are 20 years in length, with four five-year options. That means the Hennellys have the buildings tied up for 40 years.
“We have tremendous relationships with our landlords,” says Dan. “We’ve always believed in three things: Always pay your rent, always pay your people and always pay your supplier. We come at the end.”
Prior to starting The Tire Choice chain in 2004, Dan ran retail tire stores for 20 years, first as a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. manager, then as a Morgan Tire & Auto Inc. executive. Diane also worked at Goodyear, where she worked her way up from customer service representative to export sales manager. Her business experiences include owning a real estate company and earning a business degree from the University of Miami.
According to the Hennellys, to properly service an area, the average store should have nine service bays and nine employees. The employee chain of command, so to speak, is structured as follows: store manager, service manager, sales manager (depending on store volume), technicians and tire busters.
“There has to be at least one ASE-certified mechanic in every store,” says Diane. “We encourage and help all of them to become ASE-certified.”
Showrooms feature tire walls, with tire inserts branding the company name, not tire brands. Big posters asking for feedback are hung in every store. Free coffee is a given, says Dan.
The majority of the stores offer Wi-Fi. “That’s something customers really appreciate,” he says. “We started offering Wi-Fi maybe eight years ago. At the time, we were leading the way. Now, everybody kind of expects it.
“Most of our stores also have a work site area, with counter tops and leather chairs so our business people can sit there and work.”
The Oakland Park store was designed with granite counter tops, marble floors and wood paneling. The Hennellys liked the warm look of the paneling so much they have since used it in other stores. ■
To read the Tire Dealer of the Year article, click here.