Modern Tire Dealer

OCT 2018

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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M T D O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8 70 F o c u s O n D e a l e r s I n the span of a couple months, MSS Inc., dba Virginia Tire & Auto, has renovated one location, opened a new store, and broken ground on yet another. "We're preparing for our next stage of growth right now and there's a lot happening," says Julie Holmes, president of Virginia Tire & Auto. She and her husband Mike, the CEO, are leading the company her father, Myron Boncarosky, started in 1976. And Julie Holmes says they see "a lot of opportunity for growth in Northern Virginia, and Virginia as a whole." Boncarosky's life as an entrepreneur began as the owner of a Shell full-service gasoline station. He eventually added more gas stations, but by the late 1970s and early 1980s he felt his business was at the mercy of the oil company. In 1988 he opened his first larger format automotive repair shop. "A lot of our business comes from our heritage of being in the fuel business," Julie Holmes says. Her dad wanted to maintain the pace of a busy gas station, so from the start Virginia Tire & Auto offered quick oil changes. State inspections and oil changes remain an important part of the company's business. "Our model has always been built on higher volume." Typical stores have 11 or 12 bays. ey focus on complete automotive service and taking care of customers. e company owns a fleet of 50 loaner cars for customers to use. ey operate a shuttle service. And, the company offers VTA Valet: "We come to you, leave you a loaner and take your car to Virginia Tire & Auto. Never set foot in the repair shop. $15 + cost of service." Julie Holmes says all of those transportation options help the company fulfill its mission. "e reason we're in business is to take the stress out of auto repair." FOCUSING ON THE CUSTOMER Virginia Tire & Auto still operates three fuel stations — in Falls Church, Fairfax and Springfield. e company owns the property where each one is located, and Julie Holmes considers them part of the family's legacy business. e Springfield station, which dated back to the 1960s, was demolished and rebuilt for the modern era, and it reopened in August. It sits next to a Virginia Tire & Auto store, and the renovation of the Shell station also included an additional bay plus more operational space for the tire business. e Holmeses focus on consumer expectations, and say some things — a clean waiting room with space for children to play, and clean and modern bathrooms — are no longer optional. "ey're not differentiators at this point, especially since we consider our- selves a convenient alternative to the new car dealership," she says. Mike Holmes agrees. "We have a real opportunity to transform our industry. I think the customer expectation has changed and our industry has not kept pace." "We operate high volume stores. Nice big stores at great locations with good demographics," he says. "We want highly visible, highly accessible retail areas with 40,000 cars going by every day — more like where a McDonald's or Wawa might go." Securing those locations requires research. "It takes a long time for us to open our stores. We like to own the real estate. We take it under the development process. It takes a while to get our use permit." But he sees that process getting a little easier. Generally communities don't get excited about an automotive service busi- ness, but "our brand has gotten some traction. "When we went into Herndon every single council member had been to one of our stores. ey recognized our stores and our brand," Mike Holmes says. "It takes a long time to develop that." CHANGING THE TIRE STRATEGY Even though Virginia Tire & Auto's business is more service oriented, tires remain an important part of the strategy. Mike Holmes says the company is considering making changes. He's not happy about the joint ventures between Michelin North America Inc. and TBC Inc. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Bridgestone Americas Inc. "It's had a dramatic effect on our business. I'm a little concerned with our manufacturing partners acting more like competition in some cases." e company had relied on American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) to deliver its Goodyear tires, but when Goodyear dropped ATD as a distributor, it was forced to partner with TireHub LLC. ATD provided "reliable service" and Virginia Tire & Auto had developed relationships with ATD team members. Add those changes to his dissatisfaction with Goodyear's online platform that sells tires direct to consumers, and Mike Holmes says his company is considering making changes to its tire brands. "We want to own the customer experience and it's difficult to do that through that program. "We're trying to get our arms around what's changing," he says. "Change brings about opportunities." ■ Virginia Tire & Auto builds a pipeline for growth GOAL IS TO TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF AUTO REPAIR Virginia Tire & Auto has a team of four full-time employees dedicated to training and developing the company's workers, something Julie Holmes considers "our real differentiator." Joy Kopcha By

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