McCarthy Tire Service Co. Inc. has divested of four retail tire locations in the last year. That may not seem noteworthy for a tire dealership so heavily focused on the commercial tire business. But President John McCarthy Jr. maintains retail tire service is a profitable and important part of the company’s strategy.
“We have no desire to get out of the retail business,” says McCarthy, who in 2019 was Modern Tire Dealer’s Tire Dealer of the Year. “Some of our most profitable locations are combination stores that do both (retail and commercial,) and we’ll continue to operate those. We still have a few standalone retail locations that do well and are grouped together, and we have no desire to quit those.”
The company closed a retail store in downtown Charlotte, N.C., where McCarthy says the taxes and rent were both high and “we couldn’t afford to do retail there. That closed because of economics.”
He says the owner had an opportunity to sell the entire property “and we just couldn’t afford to keep it.”
About 15 miles away in Mint Hill, N.C., McCarthy Tire Service closed another retail store and sold it to Black’s Tire Service Inc., which took over on April 1. McCarthy says it’s difficult to market a standalone retail location, and this one didn’t have the benefit of a commercial location nearby, either.
In September 2020 the company closed its retail store in Kingston, Pa. Though just 2 miles away from another McCarthy Tire Service retail store, located beside the company’s headquarters in Wilkes-Barre, this decision was a difficult one. McCarthy’s father had opened it in 1978, and it was the second location in what has become a multi-state powerhouse of a business.
“Years ago when we opened that in the ‘70s, it made sense to have one (store) on each side of the (Susquehanna) River. Now it just doesn’t,” he says. “With the struggles we have finding mechanics, we thought we’d consolidate our business and we retained 85% of our business when we moved it over here.”
Kost Tire Distributors Inc. dba Kost Tire and Auto Service has since taken over the Kingston property.
Last year in Scranton, Pa., McCarthy Tire Service closed and sold its store to fellow Pennsylvania tire dealer Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc. The Scranton-based tire dealer hired the crew of McCarthy Tire Service employees who staffed the location.
Even with these closures and changes, McCarthy insists retail tire service supports its commercial tire focus. It allows the company to service the personal vehicles of its fleet and commercial customers. But it also includes the cars, vans and trucks with passenger and light truck tires from businesses and nonprofits that operate in the communities it serves.
Case in point, McCarthy says when the company closed the Kingston store, it also added three bays onto its Wilkes-Barre retail facility.
“We put it into the part of the building with higher ceilings and we put in larger capacity lifts” to accommodate the F-350s and Class 5 trucks, he says.
“A lot of retail is driven by our commercial customers. It’s a good, profitable part of our business,” McCarthy says.