By Dana Trumbull
“Who do you trust to work on your car?” It’s a question that’s at the core of owner James Pearce’s business philosophy at Apache Junction Tires & Service, 740 W. Apache Trail. “When you have someone work on your car, you want to feel like you’re part of the family, and they really want to figure out what’s wrong with your car. We’re here to fix it. If we don’t know what’s wrong with it, we’ll help find someone who can figure it out.”
Although it’s true that many of the employees at Apache Junction Tires & Service truly are family, from Pearce’s son Cody, who at age 20 already has 7 years of experience, to the sons and siblings of long-time employees, it becomes obvious in the span of a short conversation that Pearce wants everyone who comes into his business to be treated like family.
“We sell tires, do brakes and front end work, suspension, struts, oil changes… a lot of people don’t know that we do some of those things,” he muses. “The one area we don’t get into is replacing motors and transmissions. We stay away from the heavy line. Otherwise, there’s a few times we get hung up when we’re troubleshooting a problem, but we have friends we can ask questions to.
“I take a little bit different approach to that. When I first bought the company four years ago, I went around to all the auto repair people that I knew in the area and said, ‘Hey, if you ever get stuck on something or need someone to bounce stuff off of, feel free to ask us. Maybe we’ll know the answer to your question – and vice versa; maybe you might be able to help on something I need to know about.’
“Ever since then, I have about seven different Apache Junction businesses that do work with me. We’re just helping people out. It’s a good feeling.”
That “good feeling” extends to offering advice that customers don’t always want to hear. “We’ll be happy to fix whatever you want, but if your car is worth $2,000, and you need $1,500 worth of work, and after we get done fixing it, it’s still worth $2,000, is it worth it? Sometimes it’s sentimental value; I have a car like that. But other times, it’s just time to retire it.”
This pragmatic business philosophy affects Pearce’s profit margin as well. “There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed, where cars have been on the road for 80,000 – 100,000 miles, and suddenly there’s a recall issued. You take it in to get the recall taken care of – a 10 minute fix – but when you drop it off, the service rep asks if you want them to do a safety check. Well, suddenly a free recall turns into hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
“If that happens to you, tell them you’ll have to check your budget – then go get a second opinion. I had a customer just last week who went [elsewhere] for something, and they told him he needed $700 worth of work. He came here and I did it for $350… and I thought that was high! Then they showed me the other estimate, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my goodness!’
“I guess I could raise my prices, but… no, I can’t. This is what we charge. We’re not going to get rich at it, but we’re going to make a living doing it. I try to be fair and take care of people, and that’s where we’re at. We know our price level and where we have to be to stay in business.”
And Pearce should know both his business and his community. “I started as a tire buster here with the previous owner and worked my way up to where I’m at. 22 years of working right here.
“I’ve always had the mindset that I want to be a business owner… although not this exact business. When I was growing up, I always thought I was going to be a master chef. Running the business, I don’t get to cook like I used to, but this is my niche now. When I retire, I’ll go to culinary arts school. People say, ‘But you’re a tire guy.’ I say, ‘Yep. But, besides taking care of my customers, cooking is my passion.’”
Who knows? Maybe Apache Junction Tires, Service & Grill will be the next hot thing in AJ!
For more information, call 480-982-8489, or drop by at 740 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction.
Photo above: Owner James Pearce and co-worker Mike Dietrich at the counter of Apache Junction Tires & Service