Consumer Tires Retail

College Hoops a Slam Dunk for Melvin’s Tire Pros

Sponsorship Helps Dealership Bounce Along

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Melvin’s Tire Pros has sponsored Providence College basketball for most of the past decade, a deal that has paid dividends for the dealership.

Providence College is one of the largest universities in Rhode Island. And Jim Melvin Jr., longtime owner of North Kingstown, R.I.-based tire dealership, Melvin’s Tire Pros, says his company’s sponsorship of the college’s basketball program has been a slam dunk.

“Rhode Island is a small state,” says Melvin. “And in Rhode Island, there is no professional sports team.”

Rhode Islanders instead tend to be fans of the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins, he notes. 

“For all intents and purposes, Providence College basketball — which is Big East basketball — is like Rhode Island’s professional sport. And it’s a big draw for us.”

Melvin’s Tire Pros partners with Continental Tire the Americas LLC and American Tire Distributors Inc. to use co-op money to sponsor Providence College basketball, which the dealership has done for most of the past decade.

One activity that allows Melvin Tire Pros to grab attention at Providence College games is a halftime event in which two fans race from one end of the court to the other and back while rolling a tire.

Providence College plays in a 19,000-seat arena, according to Melvin, who admits it can be difficult to quantify the connection between sports marketing and the number of tires sold.

But the popular half-time activity “has been a real positive promotion for us.”

On target for best year

Melvin got involved in the tire industry because of his father, Jim Melvin Sr., who himself started by working for Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in Pennsylvania.

Working his way up through Firestone’s system, he became a store manager and then was promoted to store supervisor.

Melvin Sr. was eventually transferred to the tire manufacturer’s New England district, where he supervised more than 30 stores.

In 1974, he bought a Firestone company-owned retail tire store and went into business for himself.

“He likes to tell the story that he went from having three secretaries” at Firestone, “to the next day, pumping gas and getting asked, ‘Hey kid, will you check the oil and clean my rear window?’” says Melvin Jr., who started as a tire changer at his father’s dealership one week before his 14th birthday. 

After working at the store through high school — including full-time in the summers — Melvin Jr. went to the University of South Carolina and worked for another tire company.

In 1991, his father told him that he was going to build a second location and asked him to return to Rhode Island to run it. 

Through the years, Melvin’s Tire Pros has enjoyed steady, organized growth. The company has four stores. Its main location in North Kingstown does slightly less than $5 million in retail business each year.

Melvin’s Tire Pros stores have eight to 16 bays each. “We have had older stores in urban markets. But about five years ago, we started a restructuring. I wanted stores in  really strong, suburban locations — modern, clean stores. 

“I didn’t want the prototypical 1950s tire store in downtown, urban areas in Rhode Island. We got away from that.”

Melvin Jr. is pleased with where the company is now.  He says July 2021 was its best month ever “in sales, gross profit and net profit. This year is going to be the best year we’ve ever had.”

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