Alex Gall wasn’t a car guy, nor did he think he’d own his own business one day. However, one fateful day when his father took him to Newbury Tire, about 35 miles east of Cleveland, Ohio, that would all change.
“I had a flat tire,” Alex recalls, smiling at the memory of walking into the store and being introduced to its owners at the time, Frank and Gail Smith.
“Smitty,” as Alex calls Frank, would become not only his boss but also his mentor over the next nine years after he took his first job at Newbury Tire. At his two-bay shop in Newbury Township, Ohio, Smitty taught Alex everything about tire sizes, TPMS and running a successful tire shop. Sure, Alex knew the basics, but Smitty taught him the ins and outs of the tire business and how to create a positive customer experience that the shop is known for today.
“The biggest thing is to treat people like you want to be treated,” he said about the greatest lesson he learned from his mentor. “You learned that as a kid, and that’s our motto here.”
About six years ago, Smitty sold the business to Alex, who has carried on many of the traditions of his predecessor. Today, the shop’s tire/service mix is 100% tires. With four techs, a store manager and himself working day in and day out at the shop, the customer is always top of mind for Alex.
“Always helpful, fast, courteous service,” Google reviewer Bobby H. says about Newbury Tire.
“Alex and the staff are always able to get our vehicles done in a timely fashion and are very flexible with appointment times. Fair priced and the only guys we trust,” Christine H. says on Yelp.
Reviews like these are proof of Newbury Tire’s five-star customer experience. Customers comment on the 20-some years they’ve been buying tires at the store, which has been in business for 38 years. The store is known for top-notch customer service with a loyal customer base, and with Alex at the helm, the store’s reliable reputation as a small, hometown shop that treats you right has spread.
“When they [customers] walk in the door, we call them by their first name,” Alex says about the shop’s customer experience. “That has a lot to do with our success — that the customer feels like they’re appreciated. We just try to treat everyone’s vehicle as if it were our own.”
At the shop, the team’s goal is to get you in and out quickly and safely. Many times, each tech will take a wheel, change a tire and the customer will be on their way — sometimes in 30 minutes or less.
Alex also caters to customers by keeping the shop open late into the night, especially during the winter — their busiest time of year.
“We fluctuate the hours to accommodate people the best we can,” he says. “We’ll come in at 6 a.m., and if we leave at 8 p.m., it’s a good night. We can be here until 10:00, 10:30, though. It just depends on when the weather hits.”
Being people-minded also means taking care of your employees. For Alex, that means enrolling he and his team in Bridgestone, Firestone and Goodyear training classes and attending trade shows each year to keep up on industry trends. He also teams up more experienced guys with newer employees for instruction. Austin, the shop manager, has taken on the unofficial duties of trainer and teacher.
With six employees, some part-time, the Newbury Tire team stays tight-knit with a brotherhood-like bond. While Alex says finding good help can be difficult, he shows his appreciation for his employees through occasional team lunches, holiday bonuses and a big team Christmas dinner each year.
“I try and take care of the guys as best I can,” Alex says.
“We return the favor,” his shop manager, Austin, chimes in. “He takes care of us, and we pay it back with good work and good attitudes.”
A Pillar in the Community
The shop’s good work also spills into the surrounding Geauga County community through various community events, charities and schools with which it works.
One cause that is close to Alex’s heart — that the shop sponsors each year — is a golf outing benefiting the Metzenbaum Center, which caters to more than 800 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Geauga County by helping them live, learn and earn in the community. Alex’s sister has Down Syndrome, and he pays for a team to participate in the event each year. His team’s 2014 winning plaque is hung proudly in the shop’s waiting room.
Also, in the shop’s waiting room are photos from its Customer Appreciation Day, held every other year at the shop in September.
“We shut down the shop, and they’re [customers] able to come and eat. There’s no charge for that,” Alex says. “There’s a mini car show where a lot of people bring their cars and show them off. We have giveaways from the vendors, and we raffle off a set of tires. It’s just a small thank you to the community for their support.”
Alex and the shop also give back to the community in smaller ways that mean the world to those on the receiving end. For example, the soccer team at nearby Newbury High School didn’t have the money for uniforms this past year, so Alex bought them for the whole team. The shop also donates to local high school booster clubs and has started donating to WomenSafe, an organization that provides emergency shelter and resources to survivors of domestic violence.
In addition, he’ll help a customer out time to time when they need it most.
“There are certain customers who come here in need, for example, if somebody comes in who had a family death or something, [their tire service is] the last thing that they need to worry about, so we’ll cover it and take care of them. Whether that’s a mount and balance, repair or a new set of tires.”
A Bright Future
While Newbury Tire has flourished under Alex’s leadership, it’s also experienced some growing pains.
Currently, it does $1.3 million of business annually strictly from tires, yet the two-bay shop is using only one bay to change tires. The other is used for tire storage.
“When I go to conventions and mom and pops are talking about how many tires they sell, I get asked, ‘How many do you do?’,” Alex explains.
“7,300-7,500 a year with one bay,” he says.
“They’re shocked,” Alex exclaims. “They’re like, ‘There’s no way you do that many.’”
His response? “If you come by, we’ll show you.”
Alex credits part of the shop’s growth to its supplier and distributor partnerships. The shop works with a number of tire and equipment distributors, but Alex credits K&M Tire as helping the shop grow.
“Their service is awesome. The guys who they have delivering the tires everyday are great. They weren’t always our number one, but over the years that we’ve worked with them, they’ve definitely become our number one distributor. A lot of that’s because they’re a family-owned company, and we are too. I appreciate them keeping it that way. K&M actually shows that they care and that goes a long way for us.”
In the future, Alex said he’d like to expand the shop to accommodate for more business. That includes adding more bays, more space for tire storage, and expanding the office and waiting room. That way, he and his team can focus on what they do best: providing reliable service on every job and enjoying the work they do.
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