Though its tagline is “Locally World Famous,” in reality, 2014 Tire Review Top Shop Finalist Performance Plus Tire & Automotive Superstore is known worldwide.
With a bustling location in Long Beach, Calif., a solid presence at events nationwide and a hearty e-commerce business that spans continents, the shop shatters expectations of a typical tire dealership.
Founded 42 years ago by Roselyn and Milton Feldman, the shop currently employs 41 full-time employees and three part-timers. Its 2013 gross sales of $15.8 million resulted from a sales mix of 85% tires and 15% vehicle service, 85% retail and 15% wholesale.
Under the leadership of current owners Hank Feldman, president; his wife Joyce Feldman, vice president of events and marketing; and his brother Glenn Feldman, vice president of e-commerce, Performance Plus truly has become a community fixture, sponsoring and hosting countless events, as well as a major player in the tire and wheel industry.
Brands regularly stocked at the dealership include Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone, Falken, Nitto, Mickey Thompson, Cooper, Toyo, Hankook, Coker, Firestone, BFGoodrich, Continental, Kumho, General, Pirelli, Sumitomo and American Classic.
Performance Plus is a member of the Independent Tire Dealers Group; a Dealer Strategic Planning Twenty Group; SEMA’s Tire & Wheel and Hot Rod councils; and the California Tire Dealers Association. The shop participates in dealer programs offered by Michelin, Bridgestone, Falken, Yokohama, Goodyear and Kumho, and also is on the advisory board for both Ultra and Vision wheel brands.
The company keeps up on new market trends and brands, partly through Hank’s extensive industry involvement – he attends every SEMA show, where he serves as a new product judge in the tire and wheel category.
An Uphill Battle
The road to the top has not been an easy one for Performance Plus and the Feldman family.
Three weeks after opening The Big House of Chrome (the original name of the dealership) in Inglewood, Calif., Milton was shot in a robbery at the store. He recovered from his injuries, but left the business in 1973, at which time 18-year-old Hank joined his mother in the business full-time.
Focused from the start on excellent customer service, competitive prices and community involvement, the pair, later joined by Glenn, grew the company to 10 locations. The name change to Performance Plus in the mid-1980s served to unify the brand, according to Hank.
During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, three stores were burned to the ground and two others were looted. Through a combination of funds from the company’s insurance policy and SBA loans, the Feldmans began the shaky process of rebuilding.
“After the riots, we made a bunch of mistakes. Having never experienced something like that, we thought with our hearts and not with the checkbook,” Hank says, recalling that the company kept managers and other highly compensated people when the budget really didn’t allow for it. “One of the biggest mistakes we made was trying to recreate what we had.”
When the economy plummeted and certain areas of the city didn’t recover, Performance Plus opened stores in new locations.
“We couldn’t go back into those areas because they were like war zones,” says Hank.
“They were purely emotional decisions. I think we lost more money in the years after the riots than what the riots themselves actually cost us. If we had just sucked it up and tried to survive with what we had left, we would have been better off.”
The dealership ended up closing stores throughout the 1990s, eventually getting down to its current single location in 2000. As if that struggle wasn’t enough, Hank’s mother, 59, died of a brain aneurysm while at work.
The very next year a fire caused extensive damage to the main building of the store, resulting in the Performance Plus sales team, showroom, office and other staff having to operate out of a single small office, with the majority of service work being performed outside as the showroom and main service bays were rebuilt.
Through it all, the business managed to succeed, even grow. At the grand reopening of Performance Plus following the fire, one of the shop’s vendors presented the company with a “Phoenix Award” for continually rising out of the ashes.
“I’ve always been a person who doesn’t give up out of the sheer desire to succeed,” Hank says. “It’s part of who I am – I’ve always been an underdog in my own eyes. It was that survival mode that made things possible.”
Place for Tires, Wheels
The Performance Plus facility truly is something to behold. Entering the huge parking lot, one can see the shop’s own collection of vintage cars, as well as a bike rack with four custom beach cruisers available for customers to borrow.
Inside, the shop’s showroom features 100 display wheels – a small portion of the 7,000 wheels and 12,000 tires stocked in the warehouse. A vintage “mock diner” beckons customers to grab a booth and enjoy free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and refreshments while they wait for their vehi- cles to be serviced. In fact, a customer was once overheard saying, “Performance Plus is like Disneyland for tires and wheels,” according to the store’s Top Shop Award entry.
The shop’s six tire installation bays and seven repair bays house state-of-the-art equipment, as well as 10 tire techs and five mechanics.
With Americas Tire, Costco, Walmart, Goodyear and Firestone stores, and another local independent within about a mile of the shop, Performance Plus strives to stand out. The company’s motto, “If we don’t take care of the customer, someone else will,” is painted on its walls for all to see.
In addition to the amenities mentioned above, the shop wows its customer base by acknowledging each and every customer and striving to make them feel like part of the “Performance Plus family,” according to the Feldmans. Employees are empowered to do whatever it takes to meet or exceed customer expectations.
Performance Plus offers complimentary nitrogen inflation, as well as lifetime rotation, balance and flat repairs.
Each completed job includes a thank-you brochure with information about the services performed and a “come back coupon” to use on the next visit. Personal thank-you notes – signed by Hank and hand-addressed – are sent to many customers. In addition, the shop uses Customer Link to send customers reminder notes, review requests and return discounts by both direct mail and email.
Tapping New Markets
The company has always lived up to its original name, Big House of Chrome, and features an on-site metal polishing and wheel drilling department.
Performance Plus also developed and distributes its own wheel line, Hot Rod Hank’s, designed to appeal to the collector car market. The line is marketed via a showroom display and off-site events, as well as being featured in the dealership’s Vintage Catalog.
The hot rod and vintage market makes up a large part of Performance Plus’ identity – the dealership is Coker Tire’s largest customer worldwide. While this began as a result of Hank’s personal passion, it quickly became a way to make the shop stand out.
“We needed to seek out niches that set us apart from the competition,” he says. “The vintage, hot rod and custom wheel markets were natural fits.”
Performance Plus owns three event trailers that are used at more than 40 car shows across the country each year. Filled with product displays, the trailers are a big part of bringing in new local customers, as well as e-commerce buyers, according to Joyce, who adds, “These shows help to support our e-commerce business and keep us in the position of one of the top dealers for hot rod wheels and vintage tires in the world.”
E-Commerce & Marketing
Locally World Famous Performance Plus has indeed built an impressive e-commerce business, shipping both nationally and internationally. “In the hot rod and vintage segment, there are huge customer bases in Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia,” Hank notes. “We ship container loads to a customer in Sweden.”
This wouldn’t be possible without a robust website, which is currently in the process of being upgraded yet again, according to the Feldmans. The site – performanceplustire.com – provides the standard shop information, as well as updated inventory, product and pricing information.
“The website also has made our sales team much more effective in working with on-site customers,” Joyce says. “With the pricing now up to date, our team uses the website to quote prices that are both accurate and competitive – no more searching through out-of-date price books.”
In addition to a regularly updated blog, the Performance Plus website features links to the shop’s series of YouTube videos, including those about tire care, tire purchasing information and recent commercials.
“Our goal is to create a short, informational video for each product that will be embedded right there on the product page,” Hank says. “People want information visually now, they don’t want to read – and we want to be able to provide them with the information they need in the form they want it.”
Aside from minimal print advertising in Drive magazine and a local Model T club publication, Performance Plus’ marketing efforts lie in the digital realm – through its website, eBay store and social media – but mostly through community involvement and events.
The “locally world famous” claim started years ago, when Performance Plus was one of the first companies to run infomercials on the local cable access channel. The 30-minute spot about the company and its services ran for many years and created the community buzz the Feldmans intended.
Today, the dealership uses Facebook extensively for its marketing efforts, providing its fans with coupons, education and entertainment. The social network lends itself well to publicizing the shop’s numerous events – a recent “boosted” post about a summer cruise night reached some 5,000 people, while photos from vintage events have reached 10,000 Facebook users.
A Community Fixture
By far, Performance Plus’ largest marketing success lies in its community involvement.
The shop hosts three vintage car events each year, with proceeds going toward Performance Plus’ largest charitable effort, its Thanksgiving Food Drive. The after-hours shows, run on a volunteer basis by the dealership’s staff, bring in between 50 and 100 cars each, as well as hundreds of spectators.
The annual food drive, which started in 1997, gave more than $15,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of food to 900 needy families last year. Some 1,700 boxes of food were distributed to families from more than 22 non-profit organizations and local schools.
Each year, the boxes are packed the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving at the shop’s Hot Rod Happening food drive packing event, in which Performance Plus staff and customers, police officers and car club members arrive at the store to form a massive assembly line. The day before Thanksgiving, the Long Beach Model T Club and police department join Performance Plus staff and other volunteers to make food deliveries.
“We believe community service is an obligation of all businesses,” Hank says. “Part of it comes from my upbringing. Working in inner city stores, some of the injustices I saw made me realize how important it is to give back – to try and leave the world a better place than when we got here.”
Aside from its own events, Performance Plus supports countless other causes, including: Long Beach Jazz Angels, Jewish Federation, Long Beach Aquarium, Temple Israel, Long Beach Police Foundation, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Hebrew Academy, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies Motorsports, and Pathways to Independence.
Hank and Joyce have twice been honored by the Teacher’s Association of Long Beach with Friend of Education and Human Rights awards. Earlier this year, the pair earned the prestigious Humanitarian Award from the California Conference for Equality & Justice.
The couple is active in still more organizations: Hank is currently the Long Beach Jewish Federation president and sits on the board of the Police Foundation; both serve roles with Temple Israel, Hank as a foundation past president and Joyce as a board member and chair of two fundraising committees; and Joyce serves as the Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy chair and is on the foundation board.
“From early on, it’s been a goal to serve as a role model for other businesses in the community,” Joyce says. “We hope that when people see what one small, family-owned company can do, they will be inspired to get involved, too.”
A Winning Team
The Feldmans do not refer to the Performance Plus workforce as “staff” or “employees,” but consider everyone a member of the “team.” Through fair compensation, bonuses and rewards, and constant training opportunities, the shop has earned the loyalty of its team – many have served 10-plus years, while five have been with the dealership for more than 20 years.
The entire team enjoys paid holidays, including birthdays, annual bonuses at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for the last two years, an additional summer bonus as a result of record sales increases. Performance Plus offers fully-funded medical and dental benefits, as well as a profit sharing and pension plan.
The Feldmans have gone above and beyond when circumstances arose in which a teammate needed special help, from paying for rehabilitation and holding one employee’s job while he completed treatment; to giving a college scholarship to the child of a longtime staffer; to offering interest-free loans to team members in need.
Performance Plus team members receive ample opportunities for training. Ownership – and in 2014, the entire upper management team – attends Twenty Group meetings throughout the year. Hank and two others are TIA-Certified Automotive Tire Service instructors, so frequent in-house training is offered.
New for 2014, Performance Plus is utilizing a training program by the Molloy Business Development Group to “invigorate the energy, attitude and reshape the conversation each of our customer service representatives has when speaking to customers,” according to the dealership’s Top Shop entry. As part of the training, each member of the customer service team took part in two-day, on-site training sessions, as well as a weekly meeting for additional training and to review phone calls.
Performance Plus also hosts weekly team meetings for each department with the goal of providing mini training sessions and keeping everyone up to date on products and procedures.
The shop and mechanical teams attend monthly safety meetings, while management meets quarterly to share communication between departments and plan for the future, Joyce says.
The future looks bright for Performance Plus, with two members of the third generation working full-time in the business. While no additional retail locations are desired, Hank says Performance Plus will likely add a distribution location on the east coast to service its e-commerce business.
The shop aims to double its business during the next five years – and is on track to do so.
“We’ve seen a 10% increase in sales this year,” Hank adds. “We have a lot of plans in place to continue to grow sales at a rapid pace, mostly on the e-commerce side. There’s only so much more we can physically do out of this facility, because we do a robust amount already.”
In short, Performance Plus will continue its mantra of “constant diversification and reinvention,” Joyce says. “However, the one thing that won’t change for us is treating the customer as number one, giving back to our community and taking care of our loyal team.”
Clearly, this is a winning combination, and a vivid example of why Performance Plus was selected as a Top Shop Award Finalist.