For Kantner’s Tire Service, Adaptability Equals Success – Tire Review6 min read
At Kantner’s Tire Service, efficient and honest service comes just as easily as treating staff and customers like family. That’s because the Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania-based tire dealership is, in fact, a third-generation, family-owned business that has stayed true to its roots for more than four decades.
The single-location dealership, owned by the Roberts family, has provided tires and related services since 1977. Today, the dealership employs 13 staff members while offering replacements and service for garden tires to tractor tires — and everything in between. The shop regularly stocks tires for a variety of applications from brands like Goodyear, Bridgestone, Firestone, Cooper, Mastercraft, Falken, Hankook, Michelin, Uniroyal, Carlisle, Galaxy and Mitas.
It’s the mix of traditional customer service values and modern-day marketing that earned Kantner’s Tire Service K&M Top Shop Finalist honors in the 2022 Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop Awards.
In 1977, Glenn and Jane Roberts purchased Kantner’s from original owner Paul Kantner. Glenn had worked at the shop — which originally opened in 1968 — for a few years prior to the sale, according to his son, Troy Roberts.
Troy and his brother, Todd Roberts, eventually joined their parents in the family business and currently serve as co-vice presidents. Troy’s wife, Heidi, and their oldest son, Trevor, also work at Kantner’s as secretary/treasurer and service call technician, respectively. Todd and Heidi’s youngest son, Derek, is finishing up a business degree and plans to join the shop full-time this year.
Though Glenn is now 72 years old and has reduced his role in day-to-day operations, he still serves as Kantner’s president and is involved in the decision-making process — as is Jane, who is fully retired.
“The services offered in the beginning are about the same as they are today,” Troy says. “Obviously, things have become a lot more advanced, but the services we offer are virtually the same — we do strictly tires. We don’t do any car care, and we do anything from a wheelbarrow tire all the way up to an OTR loader tire.”
While Kantner’s formerly relied on word-of-mouth and some print advertising, in recent years its marketing mix has expanded to include an online presence and social media campaigns. Print advertising is still done in the local Merchandiser weekly and special publications, as well as newspaper pages.
The addition of a website via NetDriven (kantnerstire.com) also brought social media accounts — the shop is active on Facebook and Instagram — as well as Google Ads and online reviews.
“We are fortunate to be able to take advantage of offerings through some of our tire vendors,” Troy says. “We get to advertise through Google Ads that are promoted by Michelin, plus other Instagram and Facebook posts and promotions. Basically, our vendors and especially Heidi join forces and maintain our (social media) to a point where things are kept very up-to-date.”
Measuring the success of the company’s marketing is simple: the staff listens to customers’ responses and monitors feedback, whether it’s by phone, online or face-to-face, according to Troy.
“We’re quite a busy shop for only being a three-bay operation,” he says. “We see a lot of people in a day’s time, but we pay attention. We basically keep increasing our followers and our customer base that way.”
Unique Customer Service
When it comes to serving customers, Kantner’s offers a small-town, family-owned feel with all the conveniences and expertise of a modern shop.
“Customers like that they have one shop that does all sizes,” Troy says. “They can come in for a tire rotation, and at the same time they are getting their lawn tractor tire repaired.”
Kantner’s does not take appointments, which gives customers flexibility.
“The reason we’ve never done appointments is because we just do tires, nothing in car care where we’re tying up a bay or two for brakes, rotors or oil changes,” Troy explains. “It’s always worked for us. Because we have a great crew behind us, we can get a lot more done and service a lot more people in a day — which goes a long way toward building our customer base.”
The most significant thing that sets Kantner’s apart from the competition, according to Troy, is its staff’s honest interactions with customers.
“It’s not just all about the sale,” he says. “We’re honest with customers; we’re not going to be one of those shops that’s going to try to rip somebody off. We let people know if they can get more mileage out of their tires or wait until the next season to replace them. Being forthright with the interaction guarantees repeat customers.”
The dealership also offers on-site service to farm, commercial truck and industrial tire customers, further expanding its customer base.
Honoring Community, Staff
The Roberts family has always viewed giving back to the community as a priority. Kantner’s provides financial support to the local fire department and EMS, as well as sponsorships for the local school district’s athletic department, area baseball association, and numerous local events.
“The community has always supported us, and one of my father’s core values has always been serving the community in any way that we could,” Troy says. “We try to do as much as we can… and it’s a great feeling.”
That support also carries over to the shop’s staff, who are treated like family and given valuable perks and bonuses — which have aided in employee satisfaction and loyalty.
“We’ve always felt that we treat them like family without that big, corporate feel,” Troy says. “I think we’re very fair with all of our guys.”
Kantner’s employees and their families are provided with full health insurance coverage at no cost. In addition, staff members receive quarterly discretionary bonuses and yearly raises.
Because the shop operates Monday through Friday, they are guaranteed weekends off, according to Troy.
“That means a lot to these guys,” he says. ”It promotes more of a work/life balance, which is very important today.”
Adaptability Equals Success
The Roberts family has worked hard to overcome challenges along the way, ensuring business operations are flexible enough to adapt when needed.
Most recently, the shop weathered the COVID-19 pandemic with ease, from an operational and staffing perspective. Kantner’s only closed for one week due to staff illness, and several changes were made to protect employees and customers.
“We took the seating out of our waiting room, wore masks through the whole mandate process and tried to limit the amount of customers who came in,” Troy says. “We took the information needed, had them wait in their vehicles, and then we’d physically go out and ask them to come in. The only people in the waiting room at any time were the people whose vehicles were in our three bays.”
He adds that, prior to 2020, another challenge that comes to mind is the effect of online tire sales on independent tire dealers.
“As a small business, at first we were taken aback,” Troy says. “It kind of socks you in the gut a little bit when you see these people coming in with new tires that they bought elsewhere, and they want you to put them on. We realized that we can’t stop it; people like to shop online. We kind of embrace it now — it’s good money and we don’t have to worry about honoring the mileage or anything, we just have to do the work.”
One thing that has remained constant for 44 years — and will continue to do so even as the third generation grows in the business — is that Kantner’s Tire Service will be successful because of its model of respect: for each other, staff, customers and the community.
“Our dedicated employees make this whole world function for us and make us a success. If not for them, we wouldn’t be where we are as a family-owned business,” Troy says. “I really appreciate their loyalty and their work ethic. I think it shows, I think our customers see that and embrace it, and I think that’s a huge factor for our success.”