“You take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you.”
The motto of Town Fair Tire continues to ring true, said Michael Barbaro, Town Fair Tire senior vice president.
The Fairfield-based tire business has been named retailer of the year by the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association (CRMA).
“Everything we’ve learned is through our customers,” Barbaro said. “They want a good product and a good service. If you can do that, they’ll come back to you.”
The annual retail award is given to Connecticut merchants that demonstrate strong retail skills and give back to the community. Currently CRMA has more than 500 members and represents more than 2,000 stores in the state.
For 45 years Town Fair Tire has sold brand name tires at discount prices, starting with its first store in Fairfield.
At that store, owner Neil Mellen had decided he would only sell tires and related services from there on out.
“Try to sell one thing as good as you possibly can,” Barbaro said, reciting Mellen’s philosophy. “Focus on that one item and be the best at it.”
Since then, the company has grown by two or three stores a year, focusing on finding both the right location and employees. Employees are given medical and dental insurance, paid sick and vacation time, discounts and tuition reimbursement.
Currently the company has stores across five states and in 2011 the company opened its 85th store.
Barbaro said the company has built its reputation on not only offering competitive prices on its tires, but also for offering a number of additional services, many free of charge.
“We truly want to take care of our customers,” Barbaro said. “Our programs are designed to give them some added value.”
In addition to the stores’ lowest price guarantee, Town Fair Tire also offers free services such as lifetime tire rotations, 30-day test rides, flat tire repairs, snow tire changeovers and nationwide warranties.
“We give these awards because we want to acknowledge the work that these retailers do,” said Tim Phelan, CRMA president. “We should take some time to highlight and celebrate retailers when they deserve it.”
Phelan said the CRMA chose Town Fair Tire for its strong reputation for its services, employee relations and humble commitment to the community.
“With respect to community service, there is not one thing that they haven’t done,” Phelan said. “Rather, it is hard to get Town Fair to talk about what they do, because it is not in their nature to brag. They are a very humble company — very proud of what they do — but very humble.”
One of the company’s major community service initiatives is sponsoring New Haven Home Recovery, which works to support women and children confronted with homelessness, HIV and AIDS, and behavioral health issues. More than 50 individual employees have adapted a family through the program. Currently Town Fair Tire is in the process of doing a food and toy drive.