CJ's Tire & Automotive begins its next 40 years
CJ’s Tire & Automotive Services is coming off its 40th year in business. While the celebration ended in 2011, the company's passion for customer service continues on.
Based in Birdsboro, Pa., the 12-store chain also has not stopped growing.
“As we head into 2012, we’re already planning to open our next two retail stores by the end of June," says Vice President Paul Levengood Jr. "In addition, we’re re-styling several of our showrooms to make them more functional and comfortable, re-inventing our websites, and taking a fresh new approach to marketing our businesses. In our own way, we're changing more than tires."
President Paul Levengood Sr., known as "Skip," started the dealership on the dirt floor of a converted boat shop in Birdsboro in 1971. In addition to the retail stores, CJs Tire runs an 80,000-square-foot wholesale distribution center in Pottstown, Pa., and a Mighty Auto parts franchise serving four counties. It even has an e-commerce division.
Each of the 12 retail locations has maintained the reputation of being “the local tire store” as a result of management’s commitment to the customer and to the local community.
“Our formula is really pretty simple,” says Levengood Jr. “Taking care of the customer, hiring people with very high morals, and treating both customers and employees like they are family is what we are all about.
"Tires are a commodity, so it’s up to us to show our customers how and why we’re different. That’s why we emphasize that ‘it’s not about who is right, it’s about what is right.'”
In the 1960s, Skip Levengood was working as a tire builder at the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. tire manufacturing plant in Pottstown. He noticed a pattern at tire dealerships in the area -- poor customer service.
“I knew I could give better service than what I was receiving at these places," says Levengood Sr. "I didn’t want to gouge customers and I was tired of being treated poorly. So I decided to open my own store.”
Levengood and his original partner opened their doors as C&J Tire in the spring of 1971, naming the store for their wives, Carol and Judy. For more than a decade, Judy worked alongside her husband, keeping the business afloat during its tumultuous periods. Levengood continued to work his shift at the tire plant while his partner operated their retail store.
When his shift at the plant was over, Levengood headed to the shop and finished the day’s business, often working well into the evening to make certain that the customer was taken care of.
The store was small but doing a decent business, when he received a startling customer complaint that revealed his partner had developed some of the bad habits of other local tire dealerships. Knowing that their business couldn’t survive with a split personality when it comes to customer service, he knew he had to buy out his partner.
In 1973, Levengood gave up his job at the Firestone plant and immersed himself into C&J Tire full time. By the end of 1974, two-and-a-half years following a break-in that wiped the business clean, the store celebrated its first year “in the black.” For the next 17 years, C&J grew and became the local market leader in tires and automotive services. In 1991, the name C&J Tire evolved into CJ's Tire & Automotive.
The dealership has grown from four employees in 1971 to more than 200 full- and part-time devoted salespeople, tire and auto technicians, managers and administrative staff. For additional information on the company, click on "CJ's Tire recognized for fund-raising efforts."