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Ted Rhodes' Car Lot Funnels Customers to His Tire Store

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Ted Rhodes bought his first car lot in 1959 and added a tire dealership to his holdings in 2012.

| Photo Credit: MTD

Small town tire dealers understand the highs and lows of owning a business in a community that has a tiny population. Ted Rhodes certainly does. He owns Dennis Tire and another business, Ted’s Auto Sales Inc., in Louisville, Ohio, a suburb of Canton, Ohio, that has around 9,000 residents.

Neither of his businesses are the size of some others in the area. But they complement and support one another.

One, Dennis Tire, keeps a relatively low profile, says Rhodes. “It doesn’t need a lot of advertisement and doesn’t try to expand to the neighboring cities around Louisville,” he explains.

The busy tire dealership derives the majority of its traffic from Rhodes’ car lot, which is next door to it.

“They come in, see Dennis Tire next to us and then go there for their tire needs.”

One feeds the other 

Rhodes is 81 years old. When he was a teenager, his father told him to “go to college, work at the steel mill or start a business.”

Rhodes says he knew he didn’t want to go to college and he “definitely didn’t want to work at the steel mill,” so he bought a Sunoco gas station at the age of 17 and turned it into a used car dealership. This was in 1959.

The car dealership quickly became a staple in Louisville and Rhodes was able to build a loyal customer base. In 2012, another opportunity presented itself. The Dennis family had owned a tire dealership next to Ted’s Auto Sales for many years. When they were looking to sell, Rhodes jumped at the opportunity.

Keeping the name Dennis Tire because of its brand recognition, Rhodes began sending his car dealership customers over to his tire store.

“Owning the (car) dealership before buying the tire shop helped build business,” he says. “We have about seven employees on the car dealership side and two employees on the tire side.”

The employees work together to generate sales.

“They don’t have to do much since we are right next to each other, but if someone comes in looking to buy a used car and needs a new set of tires or a tire-related service, we send them over to Dennis Tire,” says Rhodes. “And if a customer at Dennis Tire is looking for a car to buy, (employees) recommend stopping over at the dealership and talking to me to see if I can find them a deal.”

Dennis Tire, whose building is under renovation, offers oil changes and other services. Rhodes estimates the business services about 150 to 200 cars a month and that number is growing.

Business as usual

Rhodes says the key to his success is the hard work he has put into both businesses. “When I first opened the car dealership, I was working 72 hours a week. Now, it’s hard to find people with that kind of work ethic.

“I just saw an ad the other day for a part-time school bus driver starting at almost $20 an hour. We can’t compete with that.”

Rhodes stocks his tires in a warehouse and calls American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) whenever he needs a specific tire that might not be on-hand. “They’ll be here the next day or we will run out that day and get it,” he notes.

Rhodes gets business from families who have been coming to either Ted’s Auto Sales or Dennis Tire for multiple generations. But that doesn’t mean customers are the same as they used to be.

“Everyone does their research now before coming into the tire store and they have more of an opinion on their tires.”

The most popular brands of tires sold at Dennis Tire are Hercules and Mastercraft.

Recession-resilient

Rhodes still comes into the office every day and says both of his businesses will continue to run as separate entities.

He says he has navigated his auto dealership through numerous recessions since it opened and a few economic downturns since buying Dennis Tire.

The current state of the economy doesn’t make Rhodes nervous. In fact, he says there’s no point in worrying.

“Business carries on and it’s business as usual for us. What other choice do we have? All we can do is work and provide a good product to our customers.”

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