When the U.S. economy slid into recession in 2007, many businesses struggled to survive. As the unemployment rate grew to 9.5% by June 2009, California was among the hardest hit states in the country with a jobless rate more than 10%. It was during that time that Shane Schmidt, owner of Schmidty’s Garage in Huntington Beach, Calif., was determined to hunker down and keep his business afloat. The experience fortified the foundation for significant growth to come.
“We were able to withstand that and hold on,” Schmidt recalls. “In Southern California it was tough, but we got through it, and once we hit 2011 (the business) really took off.”
Schmidt started his shop in 2004 with four service bays and 3,500 square feet. By 2011, once the business was back on its feet from the recession, Schmidt spent the next three years growing the operation to 26 service bays in a location just shy of 18,000 square feet.
He continues to look for opportunities to further grow the business. In February 2016, he became part of the Hybrid Shop franchise to take advantage of hybrid service trends that he says are the future.
“About 18 months ago we ran a study here in Southern California in my county,” he explains. “There were 24,000 registered hybrid owners. The year after that, when I went back to really get serious about buying into the franchise, that number went from 24,000 to 32,000 in 12 months. It just gives you an idea of the landscape, specifically here.”
Schmidt grew up on a farm in the Greenbay, Wisc., area where he was always working on farm equipment and machines. His family relocated to Southern California during his freshman year of high school, after his father started a software company.
A few years later Schmidt got his first taste of the tire business at the age of 17 working as a sales assistant for an independent Goodyear dealer in Huntington Beach. Eventually he worked for the largest independent Goodyear dealer on the West Coast at that time, spending 15 years working as a district manager for about 35 locations.
By 2004, he was good at what he was doing and confident enough to start his own business. It was a great decision for him as he truly enjoys his work.
“I love being in the position to help people,” Schmidt says. “Sometimes it sounds corny, but I love helping people in the community. Whether it’s people from church or one of the women’s programs that we do work with, to me the rewarding part is genuinely helping people.”
He went on to say, “I have a certain belief system and a faith system that we are all about honesty and treating people right. There is zero pressure on people here.”
With the addition of hybrid services, Schmidt aims to be a one-stop shop for his customers, and it’s the people he serves who are the reason Schmidt is proud to be an independent tire dealer.