Located in the suburbs of Minnesota’s twin cities, Samaritan Tire has been helping customers find the perfect set of wheels and tires since 1971.
It originated as a retailer, and ran a wholesale operation until the early 2000s. When the original owners decided to sell, longtime tire salesman Chris Mortensen purchased the retail side of the company in 2003 after decades of experience in various areas of the tire business.
Since Mortensen took over, the multi-brand tire store has been growing steadily.
“We went from being a $1.5 million a year store to a $4 million a year store and we went from selling 10,000 tires a year to 25,000 tires a year,” says Mortensen, adding the amount of business his single store does is comparable to a company with five or six locations.
Mortensen’s secret to success is sticking with what he knows, and for him and his 60 employees, that is tires and tire service.
“I think what makes us unique is the experience we have here in the store,” says Mortensen. “My store manager has been with the company for 25 years and our service manager has 20 years of experience, so you’re always talking to someone who is experienced in the business.”
With decades of knowledge in the shop, Mortensen said they’ve built a solid reputation with customers when it comes to quality products and exceptional service.
“I think tires are very complicated now, compared to the way they used to be,” says Mortensen. “When I started out, 17 years old in high school mounting tires, back then you had maybe 12 sizes to choose from and the biggest decision was whether you wanted a radial tire or a bias ply tire. Now you have the complexity with tire pressure monitoring sensors and performance tires and low profile tires. That makes instillation a bit complicated, so I think it’s important to have the people who have experience to dial it all in.”
Mortensen adds that they try and make the purchasing experience as easy as possible by making recommendations and keeping most appointments under an hour.
“People are short on time so it’s pretty important to do what we say we’re going to do,” he says. “We give people rides to work and back. We also make it simple to buy tires. Sometimes it’s hard to get the year, make and model of the vehicle, let alone tire size, so we’re good about making the right recommendation based on the customer’s driving habits.”
The 10-year-old facility features 10 bays, three alignment racks and an open waiting room with modern amenities.
“The waiting area is pretty spacious, it’s got wireless (Internet) and cable TV and vending machines,” says Mortensen. “A lot of people wait here. After about 20 minutes they want to get up and walk around so we have an open atmosphere. They’re welcome to go watch technicians work on the car.”
Range of Brands
The shop keeps roughly 2,500 to 3,000 tires in stock, including Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly-Springfield, Michelin, BFGoodrich, Uniroyal, Continental, General, Yokohama, Vogue, Nitto, Bridgestone, Firestone, Kumho and Pirelli. It also has a wholesale supplier located just a few minutes down the road.
Mortensen says approximately 80% of business comes from tire sales and service. The rest of the business is made up of wheel alignments and service for brakes, suspension, shocks and struts.
While Samaritan Tire doesn’t do underhood work such as fluid or oil changes, they’re able to catch a lot of tire business that other multi-service places aren’t equipped to do.
“We have a lot of high-end tire changing equipment with Corgi, as well as machines that other places don’t have,” he says. “We can do Michelin PAX tires and basically any kind of tire.”
With heavy snowfall during eastern Minnesota’s harsh winters, Mortensen says they do a lot of seasonal tire changes and provide a unique solution for seasonal tire storage.
“We store tires here in the building, so if you do winter and summer changeovers, we will store them. That way customers don’t have to take them home,” explains Mortensen. “It makes it easier for them so they don’t have a set of tires taking up space in the garage. It also keeps them coming back here, because if they have tires here, they’re probably going to come back for service.”
When it comes to advertising, Mortensen invests in commercial spots on a major radio station in the Twin Cities and relies on the shop’s website to inform customers.
“If you look at what people do before a major purchase, whether it’s tires or anything else, they do a search on the Internet to get some information and then make a few phone calls and make a decision,” says Mortensen. Their NetDriven site makes it easy for customers to search brands and shop for tires, he says.
The company also is involved in promotional and community events such as the “Back to the 50s” car show hosted by the Minnesota Street Rod Association. The annual event is held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and features more than 11,000 cars.
Additionally, Samaritan Tire is a vendor at Car Craft’s Summer Nationals and a sponsor of the local car club Eurowerk’s.
This past summer, the shop hosted its seventh annual car show, which featured 140 cars and 300 spectators. All of the money raised during the event was donated to the Courage Center, a Minnesota-based, non-profit rehabilitation and resource center.
|Top Shop Specs: Samaritan Tire|
|Tire Brands: Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly- Springfield, Michelin, BFGoodrich,Uniroyal, Continental, General, Kumho, Pirelli, Yokohama, Vogue, Nitto,Nexen, Hankook, Bridgestone, Firestone, Carlisle, Falken, Toyo, Mickey Thompson
Tire Changers: Hunter, Corghi, Beissbarth
Tire/Wheel Balancers: Hunter Road Force
Lifts: Hunter, Rotary
Alignment Racks: Hunter, John Bean
Brake Lathes: Ammco
Compressors: Champion, Ingersoll-Rand
POS Software: Goodyear GBMS
Marketing/Buying Groups: Michelin MAST, Kumho Fuel, Continental Gold and Goodyear G3X
“Those events help us a lot because if you have a show car and you trust us to put tires and wheels on that, then you’ll surely trust us to put tires and wheels on your pickup truck or your everyday driving car,” says Mortensen.
Mortensen adds that seeing his customers at events helps with one of his biggest forms of advertising word of mouth.
“When we’re at those events, we’re not really selling tires, we’re building relationships with customers who come back to us,” he adds.
While Mortensen says he isn’t always a price leader compared to his competition and big box chains, he believes customers keep coming back to Samaritan Tire because they know they’ll get a quality job, good customer service and no hassles.
“The experience level is very high; people trust that we’re going to get it right the first time,” he says. “We’re big on when we say we’re going to do something, we do it and you’re going to get what you pay for.”