By Grant Walter
Retail Spotlight: Performance Plus Tire
Honesty, Trust and Perseverance
Hank Feldman, founder and president of Performance Plus Tire, is “living the dream.”
In 1971, Hank Feldman’s family purchased Big House of Chrome in Inglewood, California. When his parents divorced, he had to delay college to help his mother run the business. Under Hank’s leadership, working with his mom and brother, the business grew. In 1992, however, three of their 10 stores were burned, others looted, during the L.A. riots. The Feldmans’ business was $4 million in debt and in no position to rebuild and pay the money back. Ultimately, through smart business and perseverance, Feldman and his company survived.
Performance Plus Tire & Automotive is now a family-run business in Long Beach, California, with 20,000 sq. ft. of space in three buildings. Hank now operates the business with his wife Joyce. He is training the third generation of Feldmans to follow in his footsteps. The company specializes not only in wheels and tires but also metal polishing, suspension and service, mostly in the off-road, hot-rod and vintage markets.
SEMA News was able to spend some time with the very busy Hank Feldman and learn about what makes his business tick.
Performance Plus carries an impressive quality and selection of tires. Maintaining an extensive inventory is a factor in its success.
SEMA News: What is your customer demographic? Who comes in and buys?
Hank Feldman: We’re the largest independent tire dealer in Long Beach—probably the largest traditional tire dealer in Long Beach, the most diverse city in the country. Our customers are very diverse here. The vintage hot-rod segment is big, but it’s changing and graying quickly. We also have a big eCommerce business. We do a lot of suspension and lift kits, so the off-roading market is definitely there as well. There are lots of little niches that we try to fill.
SN: How are you marketing Performance Plus Tire as we move forward in to the age of the internet?
HF: Other than doing events and some direct-marketing shows, we’ve got a social-media marketing strategy that will be accelerating. We have a lot of Yelp and Google reviews, and we respond to every single one. We did a cable TV spot for years, when the access channel was channel 3. It was low-tech and one take. I spoke to the camera like I’m speaking to you right now. I asked people why they came in, and they said it was because I was believable and honest on TV. That idea still applies to social media.
An employee checks to see how a mounted tire will perform under load before installing it.
SN: How do you handle staff? What do you look for and how do you retain them?
HF: We bring a lot of our team up through the ranks. Some of our team have been with me for more than 20 years; the average time of service is about 10 years. I treat people like I want to be treated. I am very available to my staff. I don’t pay the best, but I pay a fair wage. We pay 100% medical insurance and offer a lucrative profit-sharing program.
Performance Plus Tire
After what I’ve been through, I’m living the dream and my team is my family, figuratively and literally. My mother and brother were my first partners. Both were a part of the business for years. My wife is an indispensable part of our business, and my son is now here as well. He had a good job back east, but he came home to work here. I wouldn’t let him perform a management job until he knew the business, so he’s working at the counter. He will be our social-media manager soon.
SN: Can you give a synopsis of how you do business?
HF: Basically, we are in the customer-service industry, period. Any products or services we sell are available anywhere, so what you’re buying is superior customer service. At the end of the day, we win because we don’t cut corners in that area.
SN: What are some challenges that face your niche specifically?
HF: We’re dealing with a commodity, so price is always a big issue. We are part of a buying group (ITDG), so we do have a lot of buying power. eCommerce is basically a race to the bottom in price, so buying power is essential when competing in that marketplace. Big discount chains make it hard for an independent dealer. They are very predatory. They position themselves next to high-volume retailers such as Costco, and they often know my team by name. Another challenge is social media and the internet. We are doing well with our social-media reviews because it has never been our model to scam the customer. Others have had to re-think their strategy, however. In today’s world, you can’t get away with being unfair to consumers or the internet will ruin you.
SN: What’s popular in your industry segment, from your vantage point?
HF: Trucks and Jeeps. We open our parking lot for ‘Jeep-meets’ on the last Friday of every month. It’s all social-media driven, and vendors often sponsor food. Wheel, tire and suspension jobs are on the rise, along with big-diameter stuff for trucks. We don’t do a lot of the crazy, exotic stuff; we are more conservative with our inventory. Vintage autos have always been a steady stream for us.