60 Years of Reliability: New Jersey Wholesaler Targets the East Coast
In 1956, George Simon and John Sori founded Reliable Tire Co., a wholesale tire distributor originally based in Camden, N.J., near Philadelphia. They sold multiple brands, including private brands, from a single warehouse.
They relied on consistent pricing and product programs to forge long-term relationships, and it worked. Sixty years later, while many of their contemporaries went out of business or sold out to other wholesalers, Reliable Tire continues to thrive.
“There are relationships between our customers, relationships with our own employees, and the relationships with our vendors,” says Chuck McLuckey, national sales manager. “All those pieces are important to the success of our business. That’s our feeling. We work every day in making sure we’re strengthening those relationships with the customers, with our own people, and with our vendors.
“It’s through the work of those three components that our success will come from. Our ability to work successfully, communicate well amongst each other, understand each other’s needs and to be able to successfully turn those into action leads builds teamwork.”
Richie Betz: 1967 to present
Before exiting the industry, Simon, who sold his interest in 1986, and Sori, who died in 1988, passed along their business philosophies to Richie Betz, who joined Reliable Tire in 1967. A self-proclaimed “street salesman,” Betz is sole owner of the company.
“I always said as a salesman, I was walking on the top of the fence down the street, and I had my customer on one side and my company on the other side,” says Betz, 74. “I walked that fine line to keep them both happy and make sure we did have a good relationship that was good for both of us.”
According to Betz, wholesaling tires in the Mid-Atlantic region has always been competitive. When one wholesale business disappears, another one takes its place. He did say it is more price-competitive than ever before.
Reliable Tire also has expanded significantly since 1967. In addition to its headquarters in Blackwood, N.J., Reliable Tire has warehouses in Syracuse, N.Y.; Hartford, Conn.; and Atlanta and Macon, Ga. A new warehouse in Baltimore will open soon.
“Eventually, we’d like to expand to the point where we’ll be able to link all these up on the East Coast,” says McLuckey.
“One thing we’ll never become is a corporate call center,” says Andy Klavins, 43, Reliable Tire’s general manager. “Every warehouse will have a localized call center with people who, whether there are customer service representatives in the branch or one branch away if it’s a satellite location, will know the customer they’re talking to.
“Our salespeople are going to be ingrained in those territories. They’re not going to be floating in and out. The people we’re going to have running these branches and working in these territories are going to be from those areas. You’re never going to become the name and number customer of Reliable Tire.”
Passing the torch
Betz is grooming his sons, Mike and Shawn, to take over the business one day. Mike, 52, is president. He oversees daily operations. “I’m on the phone every day talking to customers, selling tires, purchasing, on the road seeing customers, the whole scheme.”
Shawn, 36, is vice president. His niche is ultra-high performance tires. “I started full time with the company around 2000,” he says. “At that time, the UHP market was really starting to explode and I kind of fell right into it. It was good timing.”
Richie often works from his home in Florida. “I check our inventory every day. I’m real involved in purchasing. And I still sell. I like to be low key, just grinding away every day.
“I remember George Simon used to have stickers on the wall in Camden, N.J. They said, ‘Selling is like shaving. If you don’t do it every day you’re a bum.’ I should have brought that down to Blackwood. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”