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A Solar-Powered Tire Store Opens in Montana

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A Solar-Powered Tire Store Opens in Montana

Almost 60 years after the first L.P. Anderson tire store opened in Billings, Mont., the family-run business has opened its second location. The owners have invested $2.5 million to make the new L.P. Anderson Point S Tire and Auto Service a reality.

Jared McDermott and his wife Amber are partners in the business with Amber’s mother, Debra Bonogofsky. The McDermotts are the third generation in Amber’s family to sell tires in Billings. Their original store downtown is a community landmark, with its 20-foot-tall tire man standing high above Montana Avenue.

The new store on Grand Avenue in the West End already is somewhat of a landmark in Montana’s largest city, even though it just opened earlier this month and celebrated its grand opening May 21, 2016. Solar panels cover the roof and McDermott says “they will generate 100% of the power for our whole building, and the payoff for equipment is seven years at current electric rates.” Those solar panels have created a bit of buzz in the community, providing extra publicity in the months leading up to the store’s opening.

It’s Bonogofsky who is leading the business’ green charge, McDermott says. “One of Debra’s pet projects it to make our business as green as it could be.” She had studied installing solar panels at the downtown store first, but ran into regulatory problems in trying to prove the decades-old building could support their weight. Installing them as part of a ground-up construction project was much easier.

McDermott says the business works to recycle “everything that we can,” but there remains one big obstacle. “The biggest disappointment is not having an effective system for recycling scrap tires in Montana.”

The 10,000 square-foot store includes six bays, plus an outdoor work area for oversized vehicles covered by a 24-foot awning. One of the inside bays is dedicated to alignments, and another is for quick lubes.

McDermott says the goal is to clear $1 million in sales in the new store’s first year. “Long term, we’d like to be at the $2.5 million mark.” They’re expecting it to be a mostly-retail operation, as it’s the only tire store on the city’s fast-growing west side. “It’s off the highway a ways and in an area of residential growth and light retail traffic.”

“People are so excited to have a tire store out on that end of town. We’ve heard time and again from customers that had to drive all the way downtown,” McDermott says. “People are always concerned and asking are we going to shut down the downtown store. We’re assuring people the downtown store is here to stay. It’s an expansion.”

For Tire Factory Inc. and Point S, the L.P. Anderson store is one of three new stores members are building from the ground up in 2016. Walter Lybeck, CEO of Tire Factory, says this store is the first new store in Montana. Members have the major markets covered in the state, and even though Lybeck is leading Tire Factory on a plan toward growth across the U.S., the group is careful not to displace its current members’ stores with new competition.

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