From Miner to Tire Dealer

Jan. 11, 2018

Walt Holland comes from a family of miners. Growing up he worked in the uranium mine his father owned, and he went on to spend 30 years working in Nevada’s gold, silver and copper mines. He eventually became a mine operations manager for Newmont Mining Corp., one of the largest mining companies in the U.S.

But by 2016 Holland could no longer deny the urge to be his own boss. So he became a tire dealer.

He bought Battle Mountain Tire Factory in Battle Mountain, Nev., from Ed Sparks, and also purchased Sparks’ Northern Nevada Retreads LLC. He rebranded the retail store under the Point S name and operates Point S Battle Mountain Tire and Auto Service.

“I’m 54 years old and some people thought I was crazy,” Holland says. “I wanted to own my own business, and have a family business.”

Holland made the leap into the tire business in October 2016 with his wife, Shirley, who spent 19 years in the mines followed by 17 years working for the local school system. And within months of taking over ownership of the store, their three children, all in their 20s, followed them into the business. Their oldest son, Jerrid, a fourth generation mining employee, along with his brother James and sister Julie, are the inspiration for the company’s legal name, Holland Triple J Enterprises LLC.

Together they’re learning the ropes — with the help of the Sparks family — and looking for ways to grow the business. Battle Mountain is a community of around 4,000 people, which Holland describes as a farming, ranching and mining town. “It sits right in the middle of what I refer to as the mining district. There are 20 mines in a 200-mile radius.” According to a Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology map, a majority of the state’s 39 active metals mines surround the north-central Nevada community Holland calls home.That gives Holland plenty of territory to cover, but it also means he’s entering a marketplace where existing tire dealers have long-standing relationships established with the mines. “I’ve done most of my marketing with my feet on the ground, making sales calls and getting in and seeing people.” His long career in the mining industry has helped, but Holland says the competition is stiff. GCR Tires & Service, owned by Bridgestone Americas Inc., and Purcell Tire & Rubber Co. are among his competitors.

“They’re just giants compared to what I am,” Holland says. “I’m a small company wanting to grow. It’s a hard market to penetrate because it’s a market that’s been wrapped up.”

But Holland sees mining, and the off-the-road tire market, as a way to grow his family’s business. In the last year he’s increased the number of mines on his customer list from two to 15. The retail side of his business remains the foundation, and represents about 65% of the overall business, with retreading and commercial tires accounting for the remaining 35%. The store sells consumer tires and offers a full gamut of automotive services from its five bays. A sixth bay is dedicated to quick lube service. The business also offers commercial truck tire services and operates four service trucks.

“We’re going to keep retail where it’s at, but we’re trying to grow the commercial and OTR end.”

One path to growing the OTR business has been in offering tires from Balkrishna Industries Ltd. (BKT), a brand other tire dealers weren’t selling locally. BKT has become Point S Battle Mountain’s primary OTR tire supplier.

Many of the mines are using tires from “the Big Three,” Holland says, so he’s marketing BKT as a top tier tire at a lower price. He does sell Tier 1 tires, too; his suppliers include Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Michelin North America Inc. “I’m trying to focus on getting wheel positions and giving (mines) products that will run at a better cost per hour. Mining is pretty tight and they’re always looking for a way to reduce their costs, and tires are a big piece of the pie.”He sees BKT as a “solutions group. They could change their compounding; they build their own molds. They’re a lot more active than the three giants in being able to change. I think in the long run we’ll be able to design a tire for the mine application. I use that as a marketing tool.”

Holland says he’s secured about 70 wheel positions in Nevada. “We’re only a year into it. Most of these tires run two-to-three years. We’ve got to get them to run out. We measure the tires all the time to see how they’re running and most of them are projecting pretty decent.”

Despite the tough conditions in retreading right now, Holland expects Northern Nevada Retreads to play a role in the business’ growth, too. Imported tires from China have hurt the retread market, and the International Trade Commission’s decision this year not to impose tariffs on Chinese medium truck tires was another blow. “We’re trying to build our retread plant back up to capacity with off-road mining tires.”    ■

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.