At Pit Stop Mobile Tire Shop, distance and location come second to customer convenience.
“Basically, we’re a mobile tire business. We’re catering to anyone who wants to save a bit of time rather than spending time down at the tire shop. We can come to people’s offices or businesses or homes or whatever to work on people’s tires for them,” business owner Matt Hamrick said. “Being able to not have to spend several hours getting your tires done, you can be doing your other stuff at home or at work being productive while we get the work done.”
As a former customer himself, Hamrick understands first-hand the importance of the service he’s selling. Before buying Pit Stop in January of 2012, Hamrick used Pit Stop’s tire and oil change services for his primary business, Wolf Pack Lawns. After years of dragging his trucks into the shop for reparations, the day Hamrick first saw Pit Stop’s green van driving down the street; it was like he had seen the light.
“I just saw (the former owner) driving down the street one day and thought, ‘hey, this would be really ideal,” Hamrick said. “We had five trucks and I was either having to send employees down (to the shop) or spend my Saturdays taking the trucks down to get serviced when they needed to, or to get tires. With (Pit Stop) it was just like, he can come here when I need him, or early in the morning while I’m already at the shop. While I’m doing other work he can get work done. It was just a no brainer.”
Pit stop mobile tire shop originally opened in 2008 under former owner Jason Dias, but was purchased by Hamrick in early 2012, after Dias left the region for the East Coast. Following a six-month period of non-operation while Dias was remotely searching for a buyer, Hamrick has built the company back into what it is today: a model he describes as a “one-man, one-truck operation.”
Operations manager, driver and Automotive Service Excellence certified mechanic, Ray Mueller is the driving force behind Pit Stop’s mobile services. Day in and day out, Mueller takes customer calls, sets appointments, makes estimates and — for a transportation fee — drives the truck to daily appointment sites to perform light repairs, including standard tire change repair and rotation services, brake services, belt replacements, oil changes and water pump or alternator replacements, just to name a few.
“When people look at my truck, they’re amazed by all of the stuff we have in there … Most of my equipment is for tire repair, but I can also do break checks and tune ups, for example,” Mueller said. “It just avoids the hassle of having to tow your car somewhere or take the day off work because you have a dead battery or whatever.”
One of the biggest benefits of Mueller’s mobile services is not having to drag heavy tires down to a shop to have them put on your car, Hamrick says – a benefit that they see customers taking advantage of more and more as the winter months roll around, as people start to think about installing snow tires on their vehicles. Instead of man-handling the tires down to the shop, Mueller can simply put them on in a customer’s driveways.
“Depending on their car, sometimes it can be hard for people to bring their tires down to a shop to get them installed,” Hamrick said. “If they’ve just got (their tires) in a garage at home, we can just come down to their house, set it up right there, put the other ones back in their garage and get them all set up right then.”
For the maintenance tasks that Mueller can’t address on the road, including heavier repairs that involve raising the vehicle, the mechanic prescribes a diagnosis to be addressed in Pit Stop’s home garage, a space they share with Wolf Pack Lawn located off of Marietta Way in Sparks.
“For us there’s not a huge profit in the sale of tires, but it gets us in front of cars which always end up needing other stuff. Ray is a really good mechanic, so if they need that other stuff, he is able to tell them what to watch out for or do the repairs himself,” Hamrick said. “A lot of those more extensive jobs he’s doing [in the garage].”
After about a year and a half of operating anew, Hamrick and Mueller believe that Pit Stop is starting to see a stable customer base bloom within the Reno and Sparks community. Although at some point they envision their fleet growing from the one-man model to a bigger business, for now, Hamrick and Mueller’s main goal is to continue to spread the word about their mobile capabilities and the full range of services that they offer both on the road and in the shop.
“We’re still in the process of really making this a nice profitable business, but we are getting a loyal following. People who use us are coming back again and again,” Hamrick said. “Once they use us, they see that it’s just such a convenience, and we’re very competitive on our pricing, so I feel like we’re building a pretty good, loyal customer base.”
Pit Stop strives to set itself apart from the other mechanic shops that surround them in the heart of Sparks’ industrial district by sticking to the five word slogan that’s displayed proudly on the side of their lime-green tire-changing machine: “Saving you time and money.” In the end, it’s all in an effort to allow customers to utilize every passing minute in the most efficient way possible.
“Our ideal customer is just someone who sees the value of their time and says, ‘OK, maybe for a few bucks more than what we would pay somewhere else it’s worth it to have us come out and do it,’” Hamrick said. “We’re really selling something that most everyone has to have, but I think the convenience factor is really the niche that separates us.”