Father and Son Lead Weaver’s Tire Service

Feb. 27, 2024

After decades of selling to and servicing commercial tire customers near Northumberland, Pa., Ron Weaver Sr. says his dream came true in 2010, when he opened his own tire dealership. 

He had started working in the tire industry as a teenager in a retread shop where his father worked. His first job was trimming and painting tires.

He worked for another independent tire dealer in Pottsville, Pa., and learned how to change and service OTR tires.

Eventually, he landed at GCR Tires & Service and spent nearly 25 years there, helping commercial customers, many of them farmers.

“It’s pretty much all I’ve ever done,” he says.

Owning his own business “was something I wanted to do my whole life.” But he didn’t want to do it on his own.

Over the years his son, Ron Weaver Jr., had followed him to work.

Ron Jr. says he “started going to the shop when I was five years old. I would spend Saturdays going to work with my dad. I didn’t really play sports in school. I just worked. I would spend the entire summer with him. I would go out on the service trucks with the guys. I grew up in the (tire) industry.”

When Ron Jr. finished college, he went back to work with his dad. They were working side-by-side and Ron Sr. says that they "were approached by people that wanted to back us financially and we took the opportunity. They helped get us going initially. Banks weren't real eager to throw money at us. You have to find someone who believes in you and we did. We were fortunate. They saw we had the work ethic and the plan and it all worked out."

And that is how Weaver’s Tire Service Inc. opened its doors.

Ron Sr. admits it was “a little scary, but I was at the point the kids were grown and (were) out of the house. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Ron Jr. agreed it sounded like a good plan and the two “haven’t looked back since."

They have bought out their initial investors and the Weavers remain equal partners in the business.

An eye for future growth

The Weavers started small, but always had a plan to grow. The first shop was 40-feet-by-40-feet, just large enough for Ron Sr. plus his brother, Harry Weaver, and Ron Jr.

Right off the bat, they served passenger and light truck tire customers, as well as commercial customers. They bought an old service truck so they could reach local farm customers, too.

Weaver’s Tire Service quickly outgrew that initial space and about 18 months later, the business added another building to the property. But the Weavers didn’t just knock down a wall and add on to the existing space. They had a vision for future expansions and opportunities and instead built another freestanding building on the site. It was built farther away from the road to ensure trucks would have plenty of room to maneuver.

Over the last decade, as the business grew, they added onto the buildings and eventually connected the first two parts with 10 additional service bays, several of which are large enough to pull commercial trucks in to do work when the weather is less than desirable. There’s also storage space for tires and parts, including racks to hold 1,500 passenger and light truck tires, as well as extra containers to help hold the 700 commercial tires the business keeps on hand.

The newest piece of the building was completed in 2022 and added another 8,000 square feet of workspace. It features energy-efficient LED lighting. Plus, all of the building's service bays are heated. Ron Jr. says they didn’t add air conditioning but rely on large fans to help cool the air in the summertime.

Ron Jr. says that they “always made sure we have the business before the growth. We always take a conservative approach to growth.”

Building with existing customers

Weaver’s Tire Service may be located in a small town near the middle of Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean there’s not competition in the market. Some of the largest commercial tire dealers in the country compete for the same customers that the Weavers serve.

But Weaver’s Tire Service has developed a large and loyal client base. Ron Jr. notes that 30% of the company’s gross sales are commercial truck tires, while another 30% is split between farm,OTR and forestry tires. Passenger tire sales account for 20% of gross sales, while the remaining 20% comes from automotive service.

In 2022, the company sold 3,500 truck tires and about 1,500 farm tires, says Ron Jr. But he says they also want to be a customer’s “go-to place” for all tires. That means they also sell lawn and garden tires, as well as trailer tires.

“It makes us stand out a little bit,” says Ron Jr. "You can come here with just about any tire you can think of and we can have it sitting here, or we can get it very quickly. There’s little downtime for any of our customers.”

That might seem like something worthy of an advertisement, but the Weavers say they haven’t had a need to do that.

“Our biggest advertising has always been word of mouth,” says Ron Jr.

He and his dad believe that their focus on providing good service is what has won over customers.

And when a customer is wowed by the service, they tell others about it.

The Weavers do work to make sure their existing customers know the full breadth of services they provide.

“I had a customer in yesterday," says Ron Jr.  "We put four tires on his truck. He didn’t know we did alignments. He’ll be back in today for an alignment.” 

That individual is already a farm tire customer, but most of his ag tire service calls are done on site.

It wasn’t until the customer drove to the Weaver’s Tire Service storefront that he discovered the business offered non-tire services. 

“We do their trucks, their pickup trucks, and now we’re starting to service their (personal) vehicles,” says Ron Jr. 

Picking up additional vehicles is a piece of the company’s ongoing growth. That’s also the reason why Weaver’s Tire Service has added a full menu of automotive service.

“We wanted to be a one-stop shop," says Ron Jr.

"It started with alignments, because tires and alignments go hand-in hand.

The business also offers vehicle inspections — Pennsylvania requires yearly vehicle inspections — and that opened the door to additional service work.

“We didn’t like putting tires on a vehicle and having to send (the customer) to another shop to have another service performed, when it would be more convenient for them to be here in our waiting area, (with us) taking care of everything at once. Also, it’s an opportunity for us to grow.”

While Weaver’s Tire Service offers walk-in tire service, all of its automotive service work is scheduled ahead of time.

Serving a 50-mile radius

The dealership operates two service trucks and while both are outfitted for medium truck tires, the bulk of their service calls are for farm, OTR and forestry service applications. Officially, Weaver’s Tire Service helps customers within a 50-mile radius of Northumberland, but some are even farther away.

Corn and soybean farmers represent a large share of the overall business and Ron Sr. says that it’s critical to have “the right person in the (service) truck” to take care of those customers.

“There are days we’ll have a service truck loaded with six or eight farm rears and that tech gets in the truck and we don’t see them all day,” he said.

“You’ve got to be able to trust them to make good decisions out there. There’s no one to guide them. They have to be trained right and be able to make the right decision and do the job.”

That same tire technician could just as easily be called to a remote location within Pennsylvania’s Weiser State Forest. Ron Jr. says forestry requires tires that are application-specific, and are “built to withstand extreme conditions.

“We’ve got some customers with really large machinery. A wheel and tire assembly that we work on now is probably 2,000 to 2,500 pounds. Sometimes they have liquid in them for extra weight. They’re big machines. You have to make sure you’re using a forestry tire and forestry-specific products.

"You also have to know the tricks to changing tires like that. They’re not on three-piece wheels. They’re on one-piece wheels and they have to be manually mounted.”

Ron Sr. points out that, “if a guy is up in the woods somewhere and blows a tire out, we’ve got to go there.”

Ron Jr. adds that “they can be some ugly jobs.”

It’s a tough assignment, but there’s also less competition in the local forestry market, they note.

“You’ve got to have the right person to do that job,” Ron Sr. says.

Keeping employees happy

So how do you find, and retain workers, especially when you're located in a remote area of Pennsylvania? 

“That’s the most difficult thing of being in business anymore,” says Ron Jr.

“To find younger people who want to do it and get involved (in the industry) — year to year it’s getting harder for us.”

“We have a great crew now, but we’ve been in the lows of that. A year or two ago, it was a lot of long days for us, and for everyone here.

We could still use another person or two a lot of days. But everybody steps up to the plate and puts in the extra effort when we need it.”

Ron Sr. says the company’s “core workforce is pretty solid, but it seems there’s always one or two positions that come and go.” It’s the entry-level tire technician jobs that seem to have a revolving door, he notes.

“We are fortunate. We have some very good people.”

Weaver’s Tire Service has 14 full-time employees and three part-timers, plus Ron Sr. and Ron Jr.

The Weavers have raised wages and offered benefits including health insurance, paid time off and a 401(k) with a company match.

But the benefit that seems to resonate the most with employees came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: Weaver's Tire Service is no longer open on Saturdays. 

Ron Jr. notes that the company has always worked a half-day shift on Saturdays.

But during the early days of the pandemic, the business cut those hours as a cost-savings move.

“Later, with the effort to keep people happy and prevent burnout, we looked at our last quarter of Saturdays, and there were no days that blew our minds in terms of business coming through the doors,” says Ron Jr.

“You’re limited what you can do in a four-hour window and there are no deliveries. So we made the decision in 2021 to close on Saturdays and we haven’t looked back.”

To compensate for the little bit of over- time that employees lost, the dealership offered a shift differential and "nobody complained about that," says Ron Jr. 

This has proven to be a big boost in keeping employees happy, he adds. And he acknowledged it has improved his own life. He’s now the father of three young boys under the age of 4. “Having two days a week with them is huge. For our employees, it’s the same thing.”

There’s another unspoken benefit, he adds, and that’s one that comes with working for a small, independent tire dealer.

Ron Jr. says there are perks to working for a smaller company.

“We’re flexible with people’s time off. If there’s a family issue, we all step up to the plate to take care of that. If someone has to leave because their kid is sick, it’s not an issue. We try to encourage people to focus on that.”

“If they’ve got a problem they know they can come to us,” says Ron Sr.

Working with K&M Tire

Weaver’s Tire Service has been fortunate that its tire wholesalers have offered them credit from day one, and that helped the Weavers get started.

Weaver's Tire Service continues to work with several wholesale distributors, but K&M Tire Inc. has become the tire dealership’s primary tire resource.

In the summer 2020, K&M Tire acquired Safemark, a division of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau that distributed tires from a warehouse in Middletown, Pa.

Weaver’s Tire Service is a member of the Farm Bureau, so it was a natural move to buy tires from Safemark, whose warehouse was about 90 minutes away.

When K&M acquired the business, Weaver’s Tire Service continued to order tires from that warehouse, as it was a primary source for the company’s ag tires.

Gradually, the K&M Tire orders started to include other commercial tires and now Ron Jr. saus K&M Tire is the dealership’s primary source for Continental and General brand passenger and light truck tires.

”Our business with them has grown exponentially month after month since they came into the market,” says Ron Jr. 

And since purchasing the Safemark business, K&M Tire has moved its warehouse to a new spot in Hughesville, Pa, just 30 minutes away from Northumberland. 

Because the new warehouse in Hughesville is so close, K&M Tire provides twice-a-day deliveries to Weaver’s Tire Service. A tire ordered by 11:30 a.m. is delivered by 1 p.m.

Ron Sr. calls it “incredible” to be able to tell a farmer who breaks down in the morning that a Weaver's Tire Service technician can be back with his needed tire by the early afternoon.

With reliable service and an inventory lineup that so closely matches what Weaver's Tire Service sells, Ron Jr., says his company doesn't need to carry as many tires in stock."

“Two years ago, our inventory level was probably $100,000 more than what it is now,” he says. “We don’t really need to have a cluttered warehouse when we can get (tires) so quickly from them. It frees up cash and frees up space.”

'It's service, service, service'

Just as the Weavers appreciate good customer service from their suppliers and wholesalers, they work to go the extra mile for their customers, too.

When an independent truck driver who bought a new set of tires recently called and said the tires weren’t riding smoothly, he made an appointment to come back.

Reacting quickly, Ron Jr. met him at the door, and a team of technicians removed and checked the balance of both drive tires.

They found the tire on the driver’s side of the truck was out of balance. They immediately addressed the problem.

With a handshake, the driver was out the door and on the road again. He called back to report the vibration issue had disappeared.

Weaver’s Tire Service counts independent owner-operators as its customers, as well as local commercial fleets, most of which have around 20 vehicles.

For every customer, providing thorough service is the priority.

The dealership's fleet business has grown “a little bit,” says Ron Sr., but he acknowledges there is probably more business available to capture. 

However, the Weavers are careful not to bite off more than they can chew.

“We don’t want to take on more than we can handle, because that just compromises service for everyone,” he says.

Sometimes providing excellent service comes in the form of going the extra mile to find the specific tire a customer wants. 

Ron Jr. says it’s not unusual for them to source tires from a warehouse in the midwest U.S., if that’s what it takes to satisfy the customer.

Ron Sr. says this ability was especially important when some commercial truck tires were in short supply during the pandemic.

“We will scour the country to find something for somebody if they need it,” he explains.

“A lot of times we found what the customer wanted and they were just so appreciative of that.

They tell us ‘I called so-and-so’ or ‘I called this place and they don’t have them in stock' and that’s all there is to it.

"They just appreciate that we put the time in to actually try to find" the tire they need, he adds. 

“That’s just the way we’ve always been. You have to earn somebody’s trust and somebody’s business. It’s not just going to come to you.”

Despite tough competition in Weaver Tire Service's area, the constant struggle to retain good workers and other impediments, the Weavers had a sense in 2010 that they could make this business dream work.

Ron Jr. says that the two, “just had faith in ourselves and our ability to dig in and work harder than anybody else. We felt like that was enough to get us through it.”

Ron Sr. agrees that the secret to Weaver's Tire Service's success and continued growth is "service, service, service."

"We have truckers coming here with a flat tire and as soon as they turn in we take care of them and we get them in and out.

I’ve heard so many times, ‘Thank you. This is the best service I’ve ever had.’ I just think that’s the ticket. 

"And I think that’s how we got to where we are,” he explains.

For more than a decade, this father and son team has worked side by side to build a thriving business.

And there’s a transition in the works. In June of 2023, Ron Sr. started to back away and reduce his schedule to two days a week.

It hasn’t been easy, he admits. 

“When you do something for so long, you miss it, even though some days when you’re here you think ‘I can’t wait to get away.’”

“It’s not that I’m concerned about (the business) because Ron (Jr.), he’s incredible.

“I’m just very proud of him. If it hadn’t been for having Ron with me, I don’t think I ever would have done this.

"We’re a team. It’s something I wanted to do together.

It’s awesome to have something you dream about come true. I always wanted to do it, but I don’t know if I would have done it (alone).”

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.