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Wanted: Tire Dealers -- Younger Generation is ‘Too Busy’ for a State Association

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As a second generation tire dealer in Washington, N.J., Brian McCatharn is looking for ways to improve business. He thought he’d find inspiration and support as a member of the New Jersey State Tire Dealers Association. But it turns out the state association needs McCatharn, and other younger generation managers like him, just as much as he needs the group.

The New Jersey association mailed a letter to members in September announcing, “We are putting your association on hold.” McCatharn, manager of Oxford Auto & Tire Inc., joined the association about three years ago, and has attended the group’s annual golf outing, but hasn’t attended other meetings because they haven’t been held in a location near him. Still, McCatharn says he sees value in the time he’s spent with other tire dealers at the golf events.

“When you go to these meetings you learn what other people are doing. It gives you ideas of how to run specials, how to beat up on the wholesalers,” McCatharn says with a laugh.

That’s the kind of support association President Al Breese, from Jack Williams Tire Co., knows the association can offer. But it seems not many other young dealers like McCatharn see that potential.

Interest has been zero

What it basically has come down to, says Breese, is that the next generation of retailers, especially in the family-owned businesses, of which there are still many in New Jersey, are too busy. “Everybody’s too busy. We used to all be too busy.”

‘The older generations, they knew how to work. The new generation coming in, these kids don’t want to work. They want to tell everybody how to work. They need to put their time in.’ — Brian McCatharn

The group also has lost members due to dealer acquisitions. Breese specifically mentions Mavis Tire Supply Corp.’s purchase of Somerset Tire Service Inc. in August, and American Tire Distributors Holdings Inc.’s purchase of Albert Tire LLC in July.

Breese says first-generation owners and dealers made the state association a priority. They attended meetings, participated in events and helped build up the industry. As he and other longtime board members have tried to recruit new members and leadership, Breese says the interest has “been basically zero.”

It appears his letter to tire dealers has failed to rally the troops. “That letter has hit for a week and I’ve not had one call from a retail tire dealer,” Breese says. The association’s letterhead notes it is “dedicated to the betterment of the retail tire industry,” though its paid membership does include wholesalers and distributors as well.

“We’d be happy to bring it back,” Breese says. “It’s a nonprofit. But we don’t need to collect dues from people and do nothing for them, and having two meetings and a golf outing isn’t doing anything for them.”

Organize a buying group

Breese, who has been president of the association for the last 10 years and involved for 35 years, says other longtime dealers have looked to him to “rev-up this association again.”

And he has ideas. Jack Williams Tire has a full-time trainer on staff, and that person holds regular monthly basic retail training for employees. Breese knows that would be helpful to other tire dealers across the state.

“Could we do that as an association? Possibly. But the tire dealers who need it the most are the one- or two-man shops who can’t get away for the day. We’d do it any time, in the evening, on the weekend.”

McCatharn at Oxford Auto & Tire has an idea, too. “I think they need to organize a buying group amongst the independents to help out a little bit. The Costco’s, the BJ’s are offering instant rebates, and we can’t do that.”

With that thought, McCatharn realizes he might be able to help rejuvenate the association. He says maybe it’s time he took on a more active role.

“The older generations, they knew how to work. The new generation coming in, these kids don’t want to work. They want to tell everybody how to work. They need to put their time in.”

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