Steve Brock says he and his son, Andrew, were put on Earth to take care of people. The father-and-son team co-own Big Rapids Tire, a single-location shop in Big Rapids, Michigan, exalted in online reviews for its supreme level of customer service.
From stories of expedited service for a family headed on vacation to building trust by simply being “brutally honest” with anyone who walks through the door, customers refer to this tire shop as “a throwback to the days of old.”
“What has built my business here is trying to do the right thing every day. And there are days you don’t make money doing the right thing, but it will definitely come back to you,” Steve says. “If you can make a problem right with somebody, you just do it. If you can make them happy, they’ll be back; if you can’t, they won’t be back and you’ve just lost. You just have to keep doing the right thing.”
For business owners in any industry, talking about ways to keep a happy and satisfied customer base is the easy part, but consistently putting the customer first is a lost art for many. In this regard, the Brocks can be considered the Michelangelo of tire dealers.
Steve says it’s a mindset he’s kept since he started working at the business 38 years ago, and he doubled down on it when he took ownership 21 years ago. He says he knows the face of nearly every customer who walks through his doors, and legitimately caring for generations of tire buyers keeps the next generation coming back.
“You know, when this COVID thing hit, I’ll bet you I had a month where I gave away as many tires as I sold. But, within [another] month we’d made it all back,” he says. “My customer base is one who comes in here and says, ‘I’m buying my tires here because my grandparents did,’ or ‘because my parents did.’ We really try to help people as much as we can.”
“We don’t really think of our one-location small shop as the best independent tire dealer in North America, but, in Mecosta County, our customers sure feel that we are,” Andrew adds. “Customer satisfaction, along with quality service, is always our goal here.”
That caring nature extends to the shop’s half-dozen employees as well, Steve says. In fact, his No. 1 tip for other dealers to find success is to take care of their employees, as he has done with those at Big Rapids Tire.
“We’re in a college town, so we have a little bit of turnover because of that, but, in general, we seem to find young talent who will stay here for a long time, because it’s really a family-type atmosphere,” he explains. “I’ve had employees who were down, in a bad spot, who’ve needed a vehicle, and I bought them a vehicle. I just pay it forward, and it’s worked out every time.”
Steve says that within the next couple of years, he would like to fully hand the reins of ownership to Andrew, a 10-year veteran at Big Rapids Tire.
“He keeps trying to push me out every year, but I’m still hanging on,” Steve quips. “After this many years, it’s pretty much all I know. Not too many people keep the same job as long as I have anymore.”