By Joseph Ditzler • The Bulletin
What: Onsite Tire Shop
What it does: Sells tires and installs them on site
Pictured: Owner Dave Kelley and from left, employees Dan Kelley, Gabe Hammond, Dave Rose and Sam Triplett
Where: 1151 SE Centennial Court Suite No. 1, Bend
The Great Recession hit the business of car buying and with it, the business of buying and repairing wheels and tires.
Dave Kelley, proprietor of NW Wheel Repair, in a cul-de-sac off SE Reed Market Road, made a decision. Business was down, he said, the result of reduced work for local auto dealers. So he invested in a second business, a mobile tire-changing operation called Onsite Tire Shop that serves the twice yearly winter-tire change-over customer.
Seven years later, he said he can barely keep up with demand.
“I understood the frustration that people have, getting their vehicles loaded with their tires, dropped off and picked up twice a year,” Kelley said. “I saw that long-term customer value, that if you take care of somebody once, they’ll be taken care of twice a year for the foreseeable future.”
Soon after starting Onsite in 2009, Kelley handed out coupons at the annual Skyliner Ski Swap. Next day, he found a line outside the shop door at 6:45 a.m.
“From that day forward,” he said, “it’s been more than I can ever do.”
The business also received a bump when the Deschutes National Forest became a regular customer. Kelley said he made a cold call in 2010 at the fleet office, where he left his business card. The manager, Jeremy Smith, said he remembered giving Kelley and his crew a try-out.
“I had him come out and show me a tire change-out,” Smith said Monday.
Kelley and Onsite have returned every year since then. Onsite swaps winter tires on 15-50 Forest Service vehicles each year, Kelley said. That showed the business’ capability, he said.
“It allowed me to just set people minds at ease at my ability to do the job and do it right,” he said. “I’m mounting and balancing, and this is an account that trusts me with their vehicles.
Onsite’s crew of four, including Kelley’s father, Dan, who is an investor in the business, can change out four tires in about an hour, Kelley said. They operate out of an 18-foot-long Workhorse step-van equipped with a Hunter Engineering wheel-balancing machine. Start-up costs were about $80,000, he said.
“The biggest problem is if it’s October, it’s 60 degrees, and Nov. 2, we get 12 inches of snow,” Kelley said. “Everybody forgot winter is coming and snow happened overnight and everbody needs their tires at once. That’s like the worst-case scenario for us, because then we have to turn people away that we care about and want to take care of.”
The company email list is about 700 addresses long, he said. He said he tries to return each call promptly, particularly those from regular customers and referrals. Prices for an individual job vary according to car size from $65 to $85. Kelley said his rates are competitive with other tire shops in town. Onsite mounts and balances tires, and also sells them.
Next year, the business is moving to a new, larger location across SE Reed Market Road on American Loop. The move, Kelley said, will double the shop space and allow him to hire more employees.
“The wheel shop is my primary business,” he said, but “with this move, the tire shop, I’ll actually just devote more of my time to it.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What brought you to Bend?
A: Dave Kelley: My buddies were over here and doing community college, and I would come visit. And when I graduated from Oregon State, I moved over here. I was a groomer and a raft guide. I had everything figured out, and then I had a daughter and had to go to work.
Q: Studded tires or nonstudded tires?
A: I’m a big proponent of studless tires. I think the way technology is at this point, there is no reason to run studs. I would say 80 percent-plus of the snow tires that I sell are studless snow tires. With over 10 years of tire experience, trying to promote studless tires, no one that I got to switch has ever gone back to studs.