Jim Stocking has fond memories of growing up at Park Tire, the 87-year-old dealership in Lincoln Park, Michigan, that he now operates, along with his younger brother Jacob, as fourth-generation owners of the Stocking family. Founded in 1933 by their great-grandfather, Vernie Stocking, and passed down from their grandfather James Sr. to their father James Jr., Park Tire was recently named the winner of the 2021 K&M Tire Top Shop competition.
Jim recalls climbing through stacks of tires with Jacob and Danny (another younger brother who doesn’t work in the business) and playing hide and seek at a very young age. He also reminisces about working at the dealership during summer breaks when he was 14 and 15 years old. Now, his children, Ella, Aria and Parker, do the exact same thing. “Anytime they come into the shop to visit me, they run off and start climbing into stacks of tires,” he says. “I remember doing that as a child and now I see my own children doing it. It’s funny how that happens.”
Taking ownership of Park Tire at the age of 30, the now 34-year-old is carrying on the dealership’s heritage, with his father still tinkering around the shop for good measure. At 64, “he still comes into work every day; he just doesn’t want to stop,” Jim says with an endearing grin.
The culture at Park Tire is such that employees are treated like family, which boosts employee morale and productivity, sharpens their focus and fosters a spirit of cooperation. When employees are happy and feel like they’re appreciated, they’re going to work harder to make the business more successful because they have a vested interest in it, Jim explains.
“We take care of our employees and are there for our employees. And, we really try to make sure that they’re on their feet and they’re doing good, so they don’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck,” he continues.
This team spirit also allows Jim time to work “on” the business, even though he’s quick to jump in and help in the bays if needed. He says he trusts his team to get the job done. “They work like a well-oiled machine….sometimes I feel like they can all just read each other’s minds,” Jim adds. “They all know exactly what to do to be the most efficient and get the job done to get customers in and out happy.”
Customer service and marketing is where Jim feels his team really shines. “We have a long-standing belief that we must treat our customers like they are our family. We want our customers to not only have an amazing first experience in our shop, but we want them to return to us for years to come,” he adds, noting that many of Park Tire’s clientele have been customers for several decades. “We really try to make customers know that we appreciate them, and, without them, there wouldn’t be a Park Tire.”
Treating customers like family, working with integrity and doing a high-quality job at a fair price sums up Park Tire’s mission, Jim proudly explains.
“We’re not just trying to make a quick buck off of people. We want customers to come back. We want to give them a service with which they are happy and comfortable coming back to see us to get new tires or repairs done,” Jim affirms. “Repeat customers are more important than that single, big sale. I would rather have someone come and buy $350 worth of tires every two years, than sell someone $800 worth of tires, and they never come back.”
With a sales mix of 80% tires and 20% vehicle service, Jim knows that expert repairs are better achieved through proper training. His team touts many certifications, including in suspension and front-end services.
The most essential factors necessary to operate a successful dealership today are “making sure our employees and our customers are happy,” says Jim. This philosophy has a ripple effect, he continues, in that if you’re treating your people well, they’re going to treat your customers well, and then your customers are going to talk about you to their friends, and that goodwill then comes full circle.
“To top it off, we have 87 years of knowledge and expertise about tires, business, marketing and management that has been passed down from generation to generation in the Stocking family,” he continues.
This dealership of humble beginnings represents a “beacon of hope” for the Stockings, who say they are living the American Dream every day. “Through the good times and the hard times, Park Tire has stood with doors wide open, ready for friendly faces, good conversations and a few new tires to keep everyone safe and happy on the road,” Jim says with a smile.
To read the full January 2021 issue, click here.