Birdsboro, Pa.-based CJ’s Tire & Automotive Services celebrated its 40th anniversary just before the holidays, a major milestone for founder Paul (Skip) Levengood Sr., and his son Paul Levengood Jr.
The family-owned and operated business was started in Birdsboro, a suburb of Philadelphia, and grew from a converted boat shop to a 12-store retail enterprise with a wholesale division operating from an 80,000-square-foot warehouse in Pottstown, Pa; a Mighty Auto parts franchise serving four counties; and an e-commerce division.
Skip was working as a tire builder at the now closed Firestone tire plant in Pottstown when he decided to strike out on his own. "I knew I could give better service than what I was receiving at these places. I didn’t want to gouge customers and I was tired of being treated poorly," said Skip. "So I decided to open my own store."
Skip and his original partner opened their doors as C&J Tire in the spring of 1971, naming the store for their wives, Carol and Judy, or "C" and "J." Skip would work his shift at the tire plant while his partner operated their retail store. When his shift at the plant was over, Skip headed to the shop and finished the day’s business, often working well into the evening to make certain that customers were taken care of.
After buying out his partner, Skip finally quit the tire plant job in 1973, and by 1974 the business was in the black, he said.
In 1991, the name C&J Tire evolved into CJ’s Tire & Automotive and Skip opened a second location in West Lawn, Pa. That was followed with locations in New Holland, Pa., in 1993, and Lititz, Pa., in 1994. At the same time CJ’s was branching out with retail locations, the wholesale division was also taking root.
"Our formula is really pretty simple" explains Paul Levengood Jr. "Taking care of the customer, hiring people with very high morals, and treating both customers and employees like they are family is what we are all about. Tires are a commodity, so it’s up to us to show our customers how and why we’re different. That’s why we emphasize that it’s not about who is right, it’s about what is right.
"As we head into 2012, we’re already planning to open our next two retail stores by the end of June,” he said. “In addition, we’re re-styling several of our showrooms to make them more functional and comfortable, re-inventing our websites, and taking a fresh new approach to marketing our businesses. In our own way, we’re changing more than tires."