The Benton City Les Schwab store has joined the Tire Centers Inc. family, which has been servicing the Yakima Valley for more than 60 years.
Phil Winterholler operates the Benton City store at 744 Ninth St. He became an independent owner of a Wapato store in 1998. The 403 W. First St. store in Wapato also transitioned to Tire Centers on Dec. 1.
Winterholler started with Les Schwab in 1986 in sales and service and was promoted to assistant manager in 1989. He said the change was prompted after his contract with Les Schwab was not renewed this past fall. “We were surprised by the change because we were not given any reason,” he said.
Les Schwab’s chief marketing officer, Dale Thompson, said the company chooses to renew its contracts based on a thorough review.
“We do a careful analysis and look at a lot of different factors when we look at renewing contracts. Not just one but a collection of factors that are in the best interest of our brand and our customers,” he said, adding that Les Schwab has 11 stores in the surrounding area and 480 stores in the west and will continue to honor warranties for customers who have Les Schwab tires from any of its stores.
Winterholler said when Tire Centers Inc. reached out to him, “we decided they were the best for us going forward. We will be giving the same great service, more competitive pricing and a great selection in tires.” Tire Centers’ branches carry and install a complete line of passenger, truck, light truck, farm, industrial and ATV tires and wheels. Tire Centers Inc. carries brands such as Cooper Tires, Hankook, Kelly Tires, Mile Star Tires and GT Radial.
In addition to tires, the company provides automotive service, including—but not limited to—routine vehicle maintenance, brake replacement, oil changes, wheel alignment and transmission service. The company also offers 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week service with nine on-call trucks.
Along with the new Benton City and Wapato shops, Tire Centers Inc. can be found in Yakima, Tieton, Ellensburg and Mattawa.
“The other stores have been with Tire Center for a long time and are all original, but we are always looking for more franchise opportunities. We are excited to grow the brand in the Lower Valley to better service our existing customers and potential new customers,” said Tire Center CEO Stuart Howell.
Tire Center Inc. has 35 full-time employees, several of whom have been with the company for more than three decades.
Winterholler said customers who bought tires when the Wapato and Benton City stores were under the Les Schwab name will continue to have their warranty honored by Les Schwab.
Tire Center also offers warranties on tires sold by them.
“Customers are surprised (at the change) but have shown us great support,” he said, adding that all the employees are staying on.
Assistant Manager Dustin Chesley and Tire Technician Gumaro Cruz said the eight employees at the Benton City shop look forward to the transition, which will include new uniforms and truck decals. Signage and business material also will be updated with the new logo.
Winterholler said the new Tire Centers will schedule a grand opening in spring 2019.
“We want to thank our loyal customers for their support, past, present and future,” he said.
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