Performance Plus of Long Beach combines retail service with online tire and wheel sales
Long Beach, Calif.—It’s no surprise that Hank Feldman spends more than $1 million a year with FedEx, shipping tire and wheel packages across the country. Feldman, president of Performance Plus Tire & Automotive Superstore, has carried the family business into the digital age, with a unique combination of online vintage wheel and tire sales and traditional retail undercar services.
“Our philosophy is that we have to take care of the customer,” said Feldman. “If we don’t, somebody else will.”
Getting to a stable state of profitability didn’t come without challenges, Feldman said.
Riots and consolidation
The family business that began 42 years ago in Inglewood as a wholesale tire, wheel, and parts business suffered a blow during the L.A. riots of 1992, where three of the 10 inner-city retail stores were burned to the ground during the six-day riots, spurred by the Rodney King police-brutality incident.
Feldman said he paid off his partners, relocated the flagship Cherry Avenue location in Long Beach, and reorganized and eventually paid off $4 million to creditors to avoid bankruptcy.
Tires and service lead the way
Today there is a three-facet approach to the business, Feldman said: retail tires and undercar service, e-commerce through hotrodhanks.com and performanceplustire.com, and vintage tire and wheels.
“The retail store represents the biggest part of the business,” Feldman said, adding that service is an area where they can improve. A member of Independent Tire Dealers Group (ITDG), the store sells about 5,000 tires and 2,000 custom wheels a month, he said.
To expedite brake alignment and brake diagnosis, Feldman said he’s been using a new Snap-on Integrity Test Lane, a drive-on inspection dynamometer that can diagnose brakes and wheel alignment in minutes. A basic alignment test, he said, can determine camber, toe, and track width quickly.
“We’ve been loyal to Snap-on the last seven to eight years,” he said, adding that they buy direct from the company’s equipment division.
Many of the OE replacement tires sold are sourced through Cooper Tire, BF Goodrich, and Michelin direct, and local wholesaler American Tire Distributors for its diverse selection of brands.
By offering fixed prices for alignments and most brake jobs, Feldman said he’s able to offer his retail customers good value.
When it comes to replacement parts, vendors of choice are Factory Motor Parts, One Stop Parts Source, Hap’s Auto Parts in Lakewood, and WORLDPAC. Wholesaling dealers include Timmons of Long Beach Volkswagen and Subaru, Glenn E. Thomas Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Long Beach BMW, and Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach, he said.
If OEM replacement wheels are needed, Feldman said he prefers to source them through 1-800EveryRim in Pico Rivera.
With social media today, there is no place for a business to hide, he said. “There’s no reason to oversell work. There are so many cars out there.”
Treating employees well
Of the business’ 37 employees, five have been employed there more than 20 years, he said, adding that 15 have been with him more than a decade.
“The bottom line is you have to work at it,” he said. “There are no free rides.”
To keep people motivated and engaged, he said he pays 100 percent of employees’ health insurance, shares profits, gives annual bonuses, and considers birthdays a paid holiday.
Technicians are paid hourly, he said, a departure from the accepted practice of flagged time. “I don’t want to sell unneeded work,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about when the shop’s slow.”
Feldman said he realizes that people are not machines, and not necessarily consistent if they’re under stress to maximize their time.
Originally starting as a catalog mail-order business, Feldman said he’s been selling vintage and hot rod tires and wheels online for nine years. Brands range from American Racing wheels to Ridler Custom Wheels. Many of the vintage tires are sourced through Coker Tire in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The two websites performanceplustire.com and hotrodhanks.com contain 50,000 SKUs, he said. If they don’t have it onsite in their warehouse, he said items can be sourced quickly from a number of local suppliers in Southern California.
An SEO firm helps with search optimization and pay-per-click digital advertising, he said. The wheel business is coming back as taste in styles change, he said. Many people are moving toward bright or black PVD coatings, he said, adding in the vintage market, colored steel wheels are popular.
An activist in the community, Feldman said he hosts three cruise events a year — in May, July, and November. The events and raffle ticket sales support the company’s Thanksgiving Food Drive with all the proceeds going to support local charities, he said. Those who donate a bag of groceries worth $20 or more receive a raffle ticket to win cash or prizes. One-dollar tickets are also sold to customers in the showroom, he added.
In 15 years, more than $200,000 has been raised and 4,000 families fed in the Long Beach community, Feldman said. “Long Beach is one of the most diverse cities in the country,” he said, pointing out his business has made donations to 15 agencies and schools. Iconic car builder Chip Foose also attends, which helps, he said.