K.O. Tire - Tire Review Magazine

K.O. Tire

K.O. Tire began as a mobile business in the 1980s where the Hogan brothers went to its customers. Today, it is a one-bay shop in Grove Village, Ill.

“Kevin and Lee have gone above and beyond for my wife and I on a number of occasions. They stand behind their work and even go out of their way to fix the mistakes of others.”

“Superior service you never see anymore.”

“Best tire shop ever, period.”

These are just a few of the recent Internet reviews of K.O. Tire in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

The single-bay shop has been owned and operated by brothers Kevin and Lee Hogan for the past 40 years. They don’t do any mechanical work, not even alignments, but that doesn’t matter to their customers.

“The phone rings constantly, all day long,” says Kevin, who schedules appointments for new tire and wheel installations and tire repairs. “We allow an hour for every four-tire job. We can do six a day.”

He also blocks off 15-20 minute tire repair appointments.

You’re not going to find a TV or vending machine in their waiting area because, Kevin says, many customers enjoy watching the work as it gets done.

“That’s what brings them back, letting them watch, showing them just how we do things,” Kevin says.

Customers watch as they use floor jacks to lift cars and hand check each and every lug nut.

“We hand check everything,” Kevin explains. “A lot of places don’t do that and I know they don’t because we see it when we’re taking them off. You can tell that the lug nus are too tight and things like that.”

Eldest brother Lee does the tire work while younger brother Kevin manages the sales office.

There haven’t been too many changes to the company in their four decades in business.

“I started this business when I was 18 years old,” recalls Kevin, who became interested in the tire industry from his father who worked as Midwest regional sales manager for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in their hometown of Elk Grove Village. “Right out of high school he asked if I wanted to try selling tires and I said ‘why not.’”

The year was 1974, when most local gas stations were still selling tires. Kevin saw a wholesale opportunity.

“So I was a kid, I went around with my flier,” Kevin recalls. “My little speech was ‘Hi I’m Kevin from K.O. Tire. If you ever need tires, please give me a call.’ And these guys would call me.”

From there, the K.O. Tire reputation began to grow, and Lee joined Kevin in business a few years later.

Mobile Services

“In 1980 we got a service truck that would go to the home or business and install tires on the spot,” Kevin says. “Lee was the installer and I’d take the orders and make the sales and stuff like that. We did that for two years.”

The on-site service was a hit with customers.

“The truck said, ‘Tire store that comes to you. Tires installed and serviced at your home or office,’” explains Kevin.

Unfortunately, the brothers ran into too many challenges to keep the mobile business operational.

“What killed it was the weather here in Chicagoland,” Kevin says, referring to the harsh winter months.

“The last straw was when someone called the cops,” he says. “We were at an office complex and the cops came with their guns drawn because they thought we were stealing tires!”

In 1984, they officially opened their shop and began shifting from wholesale to retail.

“The gas stations were declining and going out of business and turning into Quick Marts and things like that,” he says.

They still use some pieces of equipment from when they first opened, including the Coats tire changer that was used in the service truck.

“We use a lot of old equipment,” Kevin says. “The balancer is 13 years old, and we do really good work with it. No complaints.”

Kevin adds that they take pride in taking care of their equipment and their shop.

“Every Friday we clean the floor, hose it down and things get cleaned and wiped off,” he explains. “Customers comment that it’s the cleanest tire shop they’ve ever been in.”

Old School, New School

They don’t use any fancy software for keeping inventory; in fact, they don’t even have a computer at the shop.

“Everything is hand-written,” says Kevin. “Most of our sales are retail, so we can hand-write those invoices. They’re pretty easy. I have a couple of commercial accounts that do a charge, and that’s pretty easy to keep track of.”

After four decades in the business, the brothers don’t have to do much advertising. Instead, they rely on word-of-mouth and their stellar reputation on the Internet.

“People find us off the beaten road,” Kevin comments. “They come in with a repair and we say ‘how did you find us’ and they say, ‘I Googled you.’”

According to Kevin, the company is one of the top five in the country for most positive comments on TireRack.com.

“People call us everyday and say ‘you’ve got some good reviews’ that means something,” Kevin says.

“You’ve got to be careful what you do and you have to handle problems carefully, and hopefully, within reason, you can satisfy the customer so they don’t leave our shop unhappy. We want them to leave happy so they don’t say something online because we know that can hurt us.”

The Next Phase

The brothers have come along way since their “handing out fliers” days and are actually starting to “wind down” as they begin to look toward retirement.

“Lee is 60, I’m 58,” says Kevin. “We can’t take this manual labor anymore.”

Lee, a private pilot, enjoys taking aerial photos and plans to spend more time flying while Kevin is working on a book. The book features Kevin’s business philosophy and the lessons he’s learned through his decades of experience.

“It’s everything from learning a good handshake down to treating people how you want to be treated. That’s just what we’ve done,” Kevin says.

“We want to be an inspiration to somebody who is maybe just starting out and they can see how this little one-bay shop with 30-year-old equipment can do it.”

This article appeared in the April 2014 edition of Tire Review. You can read the entire issue on your phone or tablet by downloading the Tire Review app.

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