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MTD ranks the cream of the crop: Tire Kingdom, by any other name, finishes first (barely)

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MTD ranks the cream of the crop: Tire Kingdom, by any other name, finishes first (barely)

For the third consecutive year, Tire Kingdom Inc. remains in first place among the top independent tire store chains in the United States. With 640 stores among its Tire Kingdom, NTB and Merchant's retail stores, the dealership edges out Discount Tire Co. Inc., which has 628 stores nationwide. (In California, Discount Tire does business as America's Tire Co.)

Tire Kingdom, which is run by TBC Corp., added 27 stores to its total in 2005, and plans to open another 35 this year. The company also added its own line of all-chrome custom wheels, V-Line, in sizes ranging from 15 inches through 22 inches.

Last year's sixth largest domestic tire dealership, ProCare Automotive Service, is no more. Monro Muffler Brake Inc. purchased 75 of the struggling company's outlets earlier this year; by turning 31 of those into Mr. Tire stores, it jumps to fourth on the list behind Les Schwab Tire Centers. (The other 44 former ProCare outlets will do business as Monro Muffler Brake & Service stores.)

Bridgestone/Firestone Retail & Commercial Operations LLC acquired seven of the ProCare stores in the Charlotte, N.C., area.

Modern Tire Dealer's "Top 100 independent domestic tire store chains" list is based on the number of retail and commercial outlets, including those that are a combination of both.

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Past activity, future plans

In preparing our list, many independent retail and commercial tire dealers told us not only of their accomplishments in 2005, but also what they have in store for 2006 and beyond.

Advanced Auto Service & Tire Center: Owner Paul Couture is planning to not only build two retail locations from the ground up, but also open a new wholesale center.

Allen Tire Co.: One new retail store gives Allen Tire 21 in California. President Fred Allen also added the Michelin brand to his inventory, which includes Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly and Toyo.

Allied Oil & Supply Inc.: Five Allied Tire Co. commercial outlets opened in the last year. Allied also added an OTR tire repair facility.

Alton's Tire Centers: The recently opened store in Airway Heights, Wash., features 16 bays.

American Tire Depot: Two store openings -- in Lacaster and Huntington Beach, Calif. -- gives the company 28 retail outlets. President Ara Tchaghlassian plans to open five more stores in the next 12 months.

Banner Tire of Key West Inc.: The one-outlet dealership fought to keep the store open following massive flooding caused by Hurricane Wilma. The Category 5 storm destroyed much of its machinery and deposited three feet of seaweed in the back of the store, according to owner Arcadio Rodriguez. However, he was up and running with all new equipment in less than a month.

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Briggs & Sons Tire Inc.: Owners Bob and Barbara Briggs spent a lot of money upgrading equipment at their 10 stores. That includes purchasing alignment, tire changing and wheel balancing equipment, plus tire pressure monitoring system equipment.

Certified Tire & Service Centers: In May, the company opened its 19th location. The 10-bay store in Victorville, Calif., was built from the ground up. President Jeff Darrow says two new stores will be opened in early 2007.

City Tire Co.: President Peter Greenberg says he plans to add a location to the nine-store chain and expand three existing locations.

Clark Tire & Auto: The purchase of a retail location in Indian Trail, near Charlotte, N.C., increased the company's number of stores to 13. Clark Tire also opened a wholesale location in Charlotte.

Colony Tire Corp.: Owner Charles Creighton says the dealership has opened three stores, upping its store count to 38. Colony also added a Bandag retread plant.

D&J Tire: "As our wholesale is growing, we are now adding e-commerce," says owner James Greer. "Our dealers can now log in from our Web page and check stock, order, etc." D&J has one warehouse in Alexandria, La., and eight retail stores.

Delta World Tire Co.: Despite the damage inflicted on its 12 stores by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, respectively, the New Orleans-based dealership not only re-opened them all, but also added a store in Waveland, Miss.

Direct Tire and Auto Service: The company has added air conditioning service and Yokohama brand tires to its four retail stores.

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Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers Inc.: Dobbs added Continental to its list of brand offerings. The company also relocated and expanded its Tree Top, Mo., store, and remodeled its High Ridge store. To help feed its 36 retail locations, a 12,500-square-foot warehouse was opened. Two more outlets will soon open in Waterloo, Ill., and Dardenne Prairie, Mo.

Easter Tire Inc.: President Kurt Emans says he will continue to grow vehicle service at his seven stores. "Our goal is to aim at the tire, target the vehicle."

Fletcher's Tire & Auto Service Inc.: The company opened four stores in Phoenix, Ariz., its home base. According to President Jerry Fletcher, five more stores will be opened in the Phoenix and Tucson markets in the next 12 months.

Gregg Tire Co.: Following its 85th year as a Goodyear dealer and the acquisition of a sixth outlet, the Topeka, Kan.-based retail chain has no changes planned for the next 12 months, says President Randy Gregg.

Hennelly Tire & Auto Inc.: After opening four stores in the first six months of this year, CEO Daniel Hennelly says five more of his stores, doing business as The Tire Choice & Total Car Care, are scheduled to open in Florida by the end of 2006. That would up his total to 17. He also plans another six openings in 2007. By the end of 2009, Hennelly hopes to have a 35-store chain.

Jack Williams Tire: The Moosic, Pa.-based company is undergoing warehouse expansion and modernization, according to CEO Bill Williams. The company opened two retail stores in the last year.

Jensen Tire & Auto: The Omaha, Neb.-based retailer plans to add two outlets to its 18-store dealership in the next 12 months.

Kauffman Tire Inc.: Four more retail stores will be opened in the third quarter, which will give Kauffman 45 stores. Three of them will be opened in Atlanta, Ga., and one in Tampa, Fla.

Lex Brodie's Tire Co.: The addition of a store in Kaneohe, Oahu, gives the company five in Hawaii.

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McCarthy Tire Service Inc.: In addition to opening four stores in New York and one in Virginia, McCarthy Tire purchased 151 Tire Systems Inc., a commercial tire dealer and retreader in Federalsburg, Md.

Peerless Tyre Co.: The company's 57 stores now do business as Peerless Tires 4 Less.

Purcell Tire & Rubber Co.: Plans call for a new wholesale center in Phoenix, Ariz.

Robertson Tire: One new 10-bay outlet will be built and opened by January 2007. That will give the Tulsa, Okla.-based company 10 stores.

Service Tire Truck Centers: STTC is in the process of converting its three precure retread plants from the Bandag process to Michelin's.

SPF Management LLC: The Tampa, Fla.-based company has sold 37 Rent-n-Roll franchises to date (there also are six Rent-n-Roll company-owned stores run by Rent-n-Roll LLC). The stores offer Cooper, Kumho and Nitto tires, among others; President Larry Sutton says high performance tires make up 90% of the tire rentals and sales.

Ted Wiens Tire & Auto Centers: The company built a 10,000-square-foot, 16-bay retail store that opened in February. It also acquired land to construct a new commercial truck tire center.

Tire Pros: St. Louis, Mo.-based Autotire Car Care Centers plans to expand its 23-store retail chain in the St. Louis market this year, according to President John Ronsick. Autotire was acquired by Am-Pac Tire Dist. Inc. last November.

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Tireman Auto Service Centers: All 14 outlets have been outfitted with "Nitro-Max," the company's trademarked nitrogen inflation service. On the retail side, the Kumho brand was added; on the commercial side, more commercial TBC Corp. products were added, says President Randy Jones.

VIP Parts, Tires and Service: CEO and President John Quirk says he will add four more stores in 2006, giving the Lewiston, Maine-based dealership 57 outlets.

White Tire Distributors Inc.: President Larry DeHaven says he plans to open two commercial outlets in the next year. The Roanoke, Va.-based dealership has 17 outlets, including a heavy-duty truck alignment center.

No margins for error

Independent tire retailers mark up their tire prices an average of 31.5% over cost, according to a recent survey by Modern Tire Dealer. The profit margins ranged from 23% to 49%.

At the wholesale level, tire distributors mark up their tires an average of 15.2%. The wholesale profit margins ranged from 5% to 25%.

The respondents to the survey varied in size, from one store to more than 100.

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