Local Tulare Tire service bought by national cooperation

(Rigo Moran)

TF Tire & Service, a local shop that specializes in agriculture, gets purchased by Southern Tire Mart, a multi-state cooperation

EXETER – Southern Tire Mart is making its way into Tulare County after buying out TF Tire & Service, a local business owned by Lionel and Kevin Pires.

The former TF Tire & Service, now operating as Southern Tire Mart, has specialized in tires sales and service for automobiles, pickups, medium trucks, agriculture and earth moving equipment since it opened its doors in 1952.

“It (selling the business) was a good opportunity for our employees and the company,” Lionel Pires said. “It was just a really good fit, for our employees and our customers too.”

For the 71 years it was in business, TF tire went through several changes in ownership, eventually ending up in the hands of Lionel and Vicki Pires after they bought out the other remaining shareholders in 1984. However, Southern Tire Mart approached Pires, who currently runs the business with his son Kevin, about acquiring the local business earlier this summer.

The actual sale occurred at the beginning of the month, and according to Pires, it’s been smooth sailing since then.

“I do (feel good that the business is in their hands),” Pires said. “The sale was effective July 1st and it’s been a very encouraging transaction.”

Above all else, Pires wants to ensure that his customers are well looked after.

“I’m going to stay on with them (Southern Tire Mart) to help coordinate the transaction,” he said. “I just want it to go smoothly with the customers.”

Pires also noted that he made sure his regular customers knew about the sale, as some of them have been occupying the shop for 48 years.

“We sent them letters indicating how the transaction was progressing,” Pires said. “(We let them know) how they’ll be treated in the future.”

So far, the changes have been pretty minimal. According to the Exeter store supervisor, who preferred to not to be named, all changes have been and will be mostly visual, nothing that current customers need to worry about.

“It’s a cosmetic update,” the supervisor said. “New company name, everything else stays the same.”

This relative lack of change has extended to employees, as none of the staff have been let go. In fact, the buyout is all but positive for the former TF Tire & Service employees.

“No layoffs, all my employees still have jobs,” the supervisor said. “If anything, they’re going to make more money.”

As for future plans, be it renovations, new services or hiring more people, the supervisor says things will likely remain the same.

“It’s just business as usual,” they said.

Southern Tire Mart first opened its doors in 1973, located in Columbia, Mississippi. According to a report from market trend news source Modern Tire Dealer, the business was founded by Ernest Duff, father of the current owners, Jim and Tommy Duff. In the 50 years it’s been in operation, Southern Tire Mart has expanded to over 15 states, including California.

Before buying out TF Tire & Service, the closest Southern Tire mart was located in Bakersfield, a good 46 minute drive from TF’s Tulare location.

Southern Tire Mart also acquired Country Tire and Wheel, which has four locations scattered both North and South of Tulare. With these four shops, combined TF’s locations and Southern Tire’s existing dealerships, the company now has 29 storefronts across the golden state, according to the report.

While it may be under a different name now, the former TF Tire & Service will always be a part of Tulare’s rich agricultural history. According to the Tulare History Museum, TF Tire & Service was one of the largest distributors of tires for agriculture use in the Western United States.

To learn more about the shop’s past, interested readers can visit the Tulare Historical Museum website at www.tularehistoricalmuseum.org/post/tf-tire-service, where there is an excerpt detailing the business’ local origins.

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