Back in 1918, Art Ronda opened Ronda Tire, a small tire store in bustling Grand Rapids, Michigan, offering tires and auto services to the growing community.
In the decades that followed, Ronda Tire gradually grew its tire services. In addition to selling replacement passenger tires along with related tire services, they also offered commercial tires, retreading, repairs, a wholesale distribution operation and vehicle service work.
Throughout its rich history, the team at Ronda has looked for ways to innovate around the needs of their customers. From adding more services to developing innovative retread technology, computer systems and more, each generation of Ronda family members in the tire business has been open to changing the shop’s approach to better serve the needs of its customers.
A hundred years after Art began in the tire business, his grandsons, cousins Tim Ronda and Dan Ronda, the youngest of the third generation in the business, now run the two-store operation, now named Ronda Auto Centers. The business is being honored as the 2019 Mr. Tire-Big 3 Tire Top Shop Winner by K&M Tire, powered by Hankook Tire America and O’Reilly Auto Parts.
According to Dan, he and his cousin Tim got more involved in the business in the late 1980s. While one might expect a formal conversation on succession planning and who would be taking things over, Dan said it didn’t happen like that.
“You know, it’s not a job,” Dan explains about the decision to transition the business from father to son. “It’s a family business, so it was all assumed. It’s not like it is today. Many of my friends came from family businesses, and we all just started working for our fathers. It’s a generational thing.”
Before his career as an owner, Dan earned a degree in business accounting and computer programming at Davenport University in Grand Rapids. Tim studied to be a master technician. Today, the combination of their skillsets has proven to be a recipe for success.
In the late 1990s, the team noticed that accelerating changes in the industry started to impact their go-to-market approach. For instance, industry consolidation of major tiremakers bumped up quotas and purchasing minimums for small tire distributors and retreaders like Ronda Tire.
Read more: K&M Honors Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shops
At the time, Ronda Tire had five locations sharing the same name but operating independently of one another by Tim, Dan and their older siblings and cousins. But when the recession hit in 2008, Tim and Dan decided to join forces and merge together. They renamed their stores Ronda Auto Centers to reflect their emphasis on service and maintenance work.
Since then, their older siblings in the business have retired, turning operations over to their managers and others. The original retread facilities have closed, and their grandfather’s original 30,000 square-foot downtown location was sold to developers. However, Dan and Tim’s locations remain. Recently, they continued the evolution of their business by strengthening their partnership with NAPA Auto Parts.
While “Rhonda Tire” remains the No. 1 search term that brings people to Ronda Auto Centers, ramping up their affiliation as a NAPA AutoCare Center has also helped grow the service side of the business. Dan says that tire sales have actually stayed consistent while the amount of service work at each location continues to grow – an estimated 20% growth in service-related work compared to somewhat flat tire sales, which has skewed their historic tires-service mix. He admits that they could do even more than that if they pushed customers or prompted them for recommended services, but that’s not how the Ronda cousins like to do business. They prefer to undersell and over deliver to help fortify long-term relationships built on trust.
When asked what they love most about the business, Dan and Tim say pride in their family history and serving the community top the list.
“We do like the smell of tires, but it’s more about where our family’s been, what our families have been known for in Grand Rapids…. It’s our history.”