Eric MacPherson says he got into the tire business because he couldn’t be a cowboy. “I grew up on a farm in Nebraska and wanted to be a cowboy like any other boy,” says MacPherson who is now the CEO of Dawson Tire & Wheel, a three-store dealership based in Gothenburg, Neb.
MacPherson started working on a farm under his uncle and had just gotten married. With his first-born on the way, he realized he couldn’t work on someone else's farm forever.
“I asked my uncle if I would ever take over the farm one day and he said he had kids of his own, so I better look for something else.”
MacPherson started thinking about what he wanted to do and found a tire dealer in Gothenburg who was ready to sell his business.
“One day, I got up and fed the cattle on the farm in the morning and then at 1 p.m., I spoke to the owner of the tire dealership and by 4 p.m. that same day, I had bought” the business, laughs MacPherson.
“I didn’t know anything about (tire) business.”
That was in 1998. Dawson Tire & Wheel has been in business for 25 years.
‘Trial and error’
MacPherson says that he learned how to operate a tire dealership by “trial and error” and had some friends in the business who taught him.
About five years after opening Dawson Tire & Wheel, he got a call from a man who said he had an overstock on irrigation wheels and asked if MacPherson wanted them.
“I knew there were a lot of irrigation spots in Nebraska, so I took them,” says MacPherson. “I (then) put a price together and put an ad in the newspapers. We were selling all over Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois because our prices were so good.”
From that moment, MacPherson says he realized that ag tire and service would be the dealership's specialty.
So in 2012, Dawson Tire & Wheel moved away from passenger and light truck tire sales and service, as well as oil changes and alignments, to focus on ag tires. This worked well for the dealership for a number of years. Then COVID-19 hit.
Back to basics
When the pandemic hit, MacPherson got back into the retail business and opened a shop in North Platte, Neb., about 30 miles up the road from his Gothenburg location.
The Gothenburg store soon started doing retail business again. Dawson Tire & Wheel then acquired its Wisner, Neb. location in May.
Dawson Tire & Wheel now has three retail locations and a distribution center.
“We (still) really focus on the farmer and the ag tire producer. They are our bread and butter.”
Currently, 98% of Dawson Tire & Wheel’s sales are ag tire and wheels. The company has around nine service trucks and does farm service in-field, but not on the side of the road.
“We don’t have that high of a population and (we are) are located near the interstate,” says MacPherson.
On the retail side, MacPherson says his revenue is 15% tire service and 85% tire sales.
Dawson Tire & Wheel’s distribution center supplies its retail stores and other tire dealers.
The right fit
“One of our value propositions is that we do not specialize in one type of ag tire,” says MacPherson.
“We are brand agnostic. Different companies offer different tread designs and load capacities. We are really focused on providing the right tire for the right application and equipment.”
MacPherson says tires are the third most commonly worn-out piece of farm equipment, so it’s important to recommend the correct fitment.
It’s also important for MacPherson and his team to keep up with the times.
“In the ag world, the machines have just gotten bigger, heavier and faster,” he says. “The technology and size of the tires has had to grow to keep up with the new equipment. We have to stay smart and stay on top of it all.”