Detroit-based auto-service chain outlines ambitious plans for Indy market

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Detroit-based Belle Tire plans to storm into the Indianapolis market, with its first two local stores in the works now and as many as 20 to 25 planned to open within the next year and a half.

“It’s the most aggressive growth plan that we’ve really had in our company’s history,” said Belle Tire President Don Barnes III. “We’re really excited about the area.”

Belle Tire plans to put one of its stores near the intersection of Country Club and Rockville roads on the west side of Indianapolis. The second will be in Greenwood, at 198 Marlin Drive, near the intersection of West Main Street and Indiana 135. Barring construction delays, both are expected to open in September.

Established in 1922, the family-owned company operates 100 stores in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. It entered Indiana in 2015 and  has three locations in Fort Wayne, two in South Bend and one each in Elkhart, Kokomo, Michigan City, Mishawaka and Muncie. Another store is under construction in Warsaw.

Typically, Barnes said, Belle Tire enters a market with five or six stores. But the size and fragmentation of the Indianapolis market makes Belle believe it can go much bigger for its Indianapolis debut.

“We think there’s a great opportunity for someone that can operate at scale,” Barnes said.

The company has spent the past few years preparing for the Indianapolis market by ramping up its internal infrastructure—mostly beefing up its human resources and training assets.

It will take about 500 employees to staff 25 new stores, Barnes said.

The chain sells tires and also offers oil changes, brake jobs, glass repair and replacement and suspension work and other automotive services.
Barnes declined to say how much his company is investing in the Indianapolis market.

Retail broker Mark Perlstein, first vice president and longtime retail broker at the commercial real estate firm CBRE, said Belle’s plans are aggressive—but he thinks they can succeed.

“Normally, you’ll come in with a couple of locations just to see how they do. This is a little unusual, to come in and blitz the market with so many,” Perlstein said. “They came in here pretty quietly and laid their trade areas out, I think, before people knew who they were and what they were doing.”

Perlstein also described the local auto service market as fragmented. 

Indianapolis’s existing tire retailers include Best-One of Indy (formerly Indy Tire), Firestone, Goodyear, Discount Tire, Tire Barn and others. Best-One has nine area locations; Firestone has 17; Discount Tire has 11 and Tire Barn has 10. Goodyear has more than 20 affiliated area dealers that operate under various names.

“I think they’re going to take business away from everyone. I think they’re going to slice the pie,” Perlstein said.

It’s not common these days to see retailers doing major expansions. But, Barnes said, automotive service is a niche that’s less vulnerable to online competition than many other types of retail.

“Buying tires and fixing your car really isn’t a do-it-yourself purchase,” Barnes said. “You can buy a tire online, you can buy an auto part online, but you still need to do something with it.”

In other retail news this week: 

Provider, a coffee and pastry shop whose menu includes a handful of beers and mixed drinks, has opened in the Tinker House, 1101 E. 16th St. Provider had its soft opening May 7, with hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. that week. Hours will expand starting next week, according to Provider’s Instagram account. Provider is a companion shop to Coat Check Coffee, which is located in The Anthenaeum at 401 E. Michigan St.

— Eyewear retailer Warby Parker is opening its first Indiana store this weekend, with a grand opening Saturday at the Fashion Mall at Keystone. Based in New York City, Warby Parker was founded as an online-only company in 2010. It now has more than 65 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and has an optical lab in upstate New York. About half of Warby Parker’s locations offer in-store eye exams, but according to the retailer’s website the Indianapolis store will not be among them. The store will, however, have a mural from Indianapolis artist Nathaniel Russell. Warby Parker describes the mural as “a dreamy homage to art, literature and (of course) eyewear.”

— The coworking and business accelerator space Refinery 46 has opened at 2201 E. 46th St, in the former Double 8 Foods headquarters near Keystone Avenue. The 30,000-square-foot facility is geared toward small businesses that operate in the home services and construction industries. It includes offices, lockers, 8,000 square feet of common space, 2,000 square feet of training space, an in-house microbrewery and Cuban kitchen and other amenities. Owners are Brian Schutt and Jesse Cross, who bought the former Double 8 headquarters in 2015.

Kroger is adding ClickList grocery pick-up service at another local store, 1330 W. Southport Road. Construction is expected to begin in mid-June, with customer pick-ups to begin in mid-July. When Kroger adds ClickList to a location, required renovations include adding storage areas, coolers and freezers as well as “staging areas” for each order. “We would like to have ClickList in every store. Space limitations make that challenging, if not impossible,” said Kroger spokesman Eric Halvorson.

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