Managers of the new Johnson's Tire Service Inc. store in Soldotna say they hope to do $2.5 million in business during the store's first year.
"A large majority of the Kenai population comes to Anchorage and buys tires from us already," said Mitchell Eversoll, assistant manager of the new store, which should open by Friday. "A lot of people are pleased that we're coming closer to them."
The Soldotna store, on the Sterling Highway by Arby's, already had 3,500 tires on hand Tuesday. Its staff of 32 scrambled to set up tire machines, balancers and computers.
Electrical workers from Udelhoven Oilfield System Service, a subcontractor for Anchorage-based Unit Co., which built the $2.5 million store, worked on outside lights, heaters and ceiling fans. Inspectors from the city of Soldotna and Central Emergency Services checked to be certain the building met conditions for occupancy.
"We'll wash and wax the showroom floor Wednesday night," said manager Mike Fox on Tuesday.
If all goes well, the store could even open today, he said.
The 23,000-square-foot store, patterned after the Johnson's Tire on Denali Street in Anchorage, will have 20 vehicle bays, including 13 tire-changing bays, four lube pits and three motor home bays. In addition to tires, it will offer lubrication, brake, exhaust, shock absorber, front end and alignment services for passenger cars, light trucks and motor homes.
"We plan to corner the market here," Fox said.
Rick Gilmore, company operations manager in Anchorage, said the $2.5 million target for first-year sales is realistic.
"We hope to draw people from Homer, Nikiski, all the way to Seward," he said. "We have hundreds of people that live on the peninsula that come here to do their tire shopping, or brakes or struts. We get calls every day asking when the doors will open."
Johnson's Tire, owned by Jim and Janet Johnson, already has a retail store in Eagle River and three stores, a distribution center and a car wash in Anchorage. Next spring, the Johnsons plan to open a store in Wasilla, Gilmore said.
The Soldotna store will offer the same prices, warranties, products and service as Johnson's Tire stores in Anchorage and Eagle River, he said. The only additional cost will be the local sales tax.
"A tire product is a tire product," Jim Johnson said in June. "What's most important is the fast, we-care service and the warranties that go with it."
The Soldotna store will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. During rush periods -- from the first snow until mid-November and from April 1 until early May -- it also will be open Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Next summer, it will be open seven days per week to accommodate motor home traffic, Gilmore said.
"We get a lot of RV traffic in Anchorage, and we hope to pick up a lot of that down there," he said.
Of the 32 opening-day employees, 28 came from the central Kenai Peninsula, Fox said. Johnson's Tire brought the other four from Anchorage. Gilmore said the staff of 32 is geared for the fall rush.
"Year-round, we'll probably average 20 to 25 (people on staff)," he said.
Because this is the busy season, there will be no grand-opening celebration until spring, he said.
"Hopefully, we'll be so busy opening our doors so that people can buy studs from us or do tire changes," he said.
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