Their Work Fits To A (Model) T

Their work fits to a (Model) T

By: Kathy McCarron
CANTON, Ohio —
June 04, 2007

(Reprinted newspaper article)

Focusing on a specialty has helped Canton Bandag Co. survive in the cyclical tire market.

“We try to branch off into untapped areas of uniqueness,” said owner Dave Richards Jr. “We find when things are going poorly (in the market), all the piranhas out there go after the same fish.”

In addition to selling passenger tires and retreading truck and specialty tires, the Canton, Ohio-based dealership retreads custom industrial tires and rebuilds antique solid tires.

The dealership rebuilds solid tires for antique trucks, fire engines, horse-drawn wagons and other vehicles dating from the 1880s to the 1920s. The company restores a tire from scratch often using the original rim and creates custom rubber molds to make the sidewalls and lettering.

Mr. Richards said the antique tires are often unique so the company rarely reuses a mold.

Canton Bandag also retreads small specialty tires used on a variety of equipment such as forklifts, drive wheels for conveyor systems and merry-go-rounds, and portable hoists used to unload burial vaults.

For these industrial customers, retreads offer an alternative to purchasing original equipment tires that are very costly or non-existent, according to Mr. Richards. The retreader also has increased its small off-the-road tire retread output to address shortages in that market.

Its retreading operation offers precure, foam-filled, press-on, rubber-to-steel bonding and polyurethane rebuilding. The customer base has been limited to Ohio for logistical reasons and due to the higher costs of transporting products, Mr. Richards said.

The company’s multiple operations are combined at one location and generate $1.4 million in annual revenues. “We’re not a high production shop,” Mr. Richards admitted, but he couldn’t put a number on the average annual retread/rebuilt tire output because “we do so many oddball things. We make a tire in a week that takes others a day.”

Canton Bandag was founded in 1962 by Mr. Richards’ father, Everett D. Richards Sr., as a Bandag truck tire retreading shop and retail store. It claims to be Ohio’s oldest Bandag franchise.

In the early 1980s the business expanded into industrial tire retreading. “Now it’s our specialty,” said Mr. Richards, who took over ownership six years ago. His 77-year-old father still comes to the office daily and has his own clientele.

Mr. Richard’s business philosophy is: “Treat people with respect, treat people honestly and you build a good name. Our best advertising is word of mouth.”

Canton Bandag’s industrial tire business provided a base of expertise when the company bought the local Overman Cushion Tire Co., a rebuilder of antique solid tires, from its ailing owner in 2005. Mr. Richards, who was a long-time friend of the owner, said that antique tire rebuilding is along the same lines as industrial tire remanufacturing. Customers usually send samples of what is left on an antique tire, then the dealership tries to replicate it.

Mr. Richards said rebuilding antique tires is a long process. The step-by-step method to build a set of four tires takes about a month.

And the business is seasonal, with most orders made for vehicles used in parades. He said the company produces about six sets of tires a season for customers across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s a learning experience,” he said, but he enjoys the uniqueness of the business, noting that he is even rebuilding the wheels for the iconic Budweiser horse-drawn beer wagon.

Most of the company’s sales come from its retail shop, which sells mainly Toyo tires and a Yokohama line and offers tire mounting, balancing and repair. The company also sells airless Amerityre tires and wheels.

In keeping with the company’s history of business diversity, Mr. Richards is not averse to trying out other ventures. He recently operated a custom muffler business for a couple of years but folded it after realizing it was unprofitable and there were too many competitors that were undercutting on price.

Now he is considering venturing into the repair and remanufacturing of tracks for mini excavators. “There is a market for it and no one is doing it around here,” he said.

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