Correa Tire Holds a Grand Opening in Puerto Rico
You live on an island with a population of 3.5 million people that has been declining every year since 2002. Further, your island is in economic chaos, and politically there is an ongoing debate on whether to become an independent country, remain a U.S. territory, or become the 51st state. So, what do you do?
If you are Josué Correa and his brother, Ricardo, you buy property and build a very modern retail tire store. The brothers are second generation tire dealers who bought Correa Tire Distributors in December 2014 from their father, Santos.
The company got its start in 1976 when Santos and his brother, Martin, began a small retreading operation called Marson Recapping. By 1992, the company had grown and was renamed Correa Tire Distributors. The original location, a 30-minute drive west of San Juan, has seen numerous expansions over the years. It currently houses a retreading operation, retail store and a wholesaling operation. The company has a second retail location just outside of Ponce in the southern part of Puerto Rico. All told, the company employs 50 people. Now the company is unveiling its third retail location on a street located on Roosevelt Drive in San Juan, very close to the largest shopping area in Puerto Rico and in the heart of the financial and commercial corridor.The company began planning the new location eight years ago. It displays Bridgestone signage and is part of that company’s “Bridgestone Store” program run by Bridgestone Costa Rica. Correa Tire will offer full service for tires and repair work when the roughly 40,000-square-foot store opens this month. A night-long grand opening celebration was held on April 23.
Josué said he has been trying to buy property in that area for the last eight years, but the timing wasn’t right. With current economic issues in Puerto Rico, he was able to buy the land at a fraction of what it would have cost a few years ago. In addition, he negotiated a deal with a local communications company to have its towers on top of the three story building. The monthly fee the company pays helps offset the cost of the land.Josué is currently in the final stages of acquiring the lot next to the new location that will allow for immediate expansion of the store. This type of entrepreneurial thinking has made Correa Tire Distributors one of the largest tire dealers in Puerto Rico, if not the largest. The company had sales of $14 million in 2015, of which 75% came from the commercial, wholesale and retreading side; 20% from the retailing arm; and the remaining 5% from exporting.
The skill sets of the two brothers complement each other. Josué, who graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of Puerto Rico in 2001, is president and deals with finances and strategic planning while Ricardo, a director, handles marketing and publicity along with expansion plans.“We want to grow the retailing side of the business and be known as a company that can meet the needs of our customers,” says Josué. “We want to offer every kind of automotive repair service to our customers.” Correa Tire handles all types of tires except for aircraft tires.
Both of the brothers have worked with the company for years, learning things from the inside, starting with how to push a broom.
“Our father taught us that one must do everything. If you don’t know the business, you can’t talk about what’s taking place.”
Correa Tire Distributing is also a member of DSP’s 20 group, something that Josué says “has helped us to envision what we need to do to be great. We were ignorant before joining the 20 group.”
He says the interaction within the 20 group has allowed them to move the business from a lower end upward. “This helps us focus on upscale retail,” says Josué. “Now we know what we need to do to move into the future.” Both brothers say their involvement with the 20 group “allows us to do smart decisions without making mistakes.”
Even in the middle of expanding the retail side of the business, the Correas are committed to helping their 200-plus wholesale tire customers. “We want to give them the tools to work fast...we’d like to be the ATD (American Tire Distributors) of the Caribbean,” says Ricardo. Josué wants his company to be known as the place to go to for all tires at any price point. “Whatever the customer wants, we will get it quickly.” Advertising and marketing tires at the retail level continues to evolve in Puerto Rico, as it does elsewhere. Ricardo says telephone directory advertising has been the company’s largest expenditure and has produced results, but things are now changing. The company has 30 delivery trucks with their signage on the sides that are traveling throughout Puerto Rico.
Correa sponsors a radio program with a well-known technician who answers questions about vehicles. Recently, they advertised the advantages of low-rolling resistance tires on the program. As a result, they saw sales of these tires immediately increase, so they know the exposure is working.
Ricardo is also the company’s in-house social media guru. He has the company using all forms of social media, and has launched their own app for iPhone and Android mobile users.From a strategic standpoint, Josué and Ricardo believe the company can become a major player in tire distribution throughout the Caribbean. They currently have 20,000 tires in a Free Trade Zone warehouse for distribution and are looking to expand this operation.