"I work six days and week and I plan to keep going," said Hedinger, of Dyer, Ind. "I do administrative work now, but I’ve probably changed 100,000 tires in my life."
As president of Lake Tire Co. Inc., a company he founded 47 years ago, Hedinger learned the retail tire business as a sales manager for a Denver-based tire company.
"I studied the successful dealers across the country and put my business together from the good points I learned from the successful ones," he said.
Like Hedinger, Lake Tire stores’ managers are all senior citizens ranging from 62 to 75 years old.
"They’re all retirees who elected to come back into the work force," Hedinger said. "Many were executive in the careers they left. They’re top-notch and we have a team that’s irreplaceable. The managers are all excellent people," he said.
"They’re knowledgeable, dependable and responsible," Hedinger said. "They’re used to giving good service, not like you get in a lot of retail locations today. Some of them change tires. I have to hold them back. I’ll go into a store and see them working and they say, ‘I like the exercise. Leave me alone.’"
Since opening his first store at 5706 Hohman Ave. in Hammond in 1960, Hedinger added five more stores to the Lake Tire chain: another in Hammond, plus stores in Highland, Lake Station, Michigan City and Portage.
All but the Highland location, which Lake Tire has occupied for more than 20 years, are company owned. The lease on that store has expired and the owner decided to sell the property, Hedinger said.
The building is being demolished and will be replaced by new commercial development, he said.
"We are consolidating our local business," Hedinger said. "It will give us greater cost efficiency resulting in cost saving and lower costs to customers. We expect to expand the retail business to strategic locations in northwest Indiana.”
The company is confident it will keep a good part of the business from the Highland store as customers shift their trade to the other locations and Lake Tires plans more stores.
"We’re looking in the south and to the east toward Valparaiso and west into Illinois," Hedinger said. "The area’s wide open for us." (Tire Review/Akron)