We asked the longtime Chapel Hill family-owned business about company values, giving back and looking to the future with expansion in mind.
By Anne Tate | Photography by Beth Mann
Marc Pons Co-owner and president, Chapel Hill Tire
Date founded 1953; purchased by the Pons family in 1964
Number of employees 126
Chapel Hill Tire (CHT) opened on West Franklin Street in 1953. A decade later, Al Pons bought the business and grew it to four locations, eventually selling three of them. After his death in 1996, his two sons, Marc and Britt, took over the family business. Marc acts as the strategist and visionary of CHT, innovating the business while maintaining the values his father put in place more than 50 years ago. Over the past 23 years, Marc reacquired the three original stores and has grown the business to eight locations.
Number of cars serviced 6,000 per month
Cost of a set of tires in 1964 Approximately $60
Earliest memory at CHT I remember coming into the store with my dad. We used to have stacks of tires set up everywhere with for-sale signs. I remember one of the employees picking me up and dropping me down inside the stack of tires, and I just crawled my way out.
Who do you hire? We have a really good track record of retaining employees through acquisitions and bringing in our fun, positive energy. We have a history of longtime employees, and that’s really important to us because we have a firm belief that happy employees equal happy customers. Our growth strategy is to cultivate our talent from within so we can instill our values and “people-first” strategy. We have very low turnover; we really invest in our employees and their growth.
How has Chapel Hill influenced your business? Growing up on Dean Smith basketball taught [me] to have values and that there was a certain way to go about winning. It was about teamwork.
How do you decide where to open new stores? Part of our plan is to [grow] through acquisition because it’s faster and much more fun to open the doors and have an existing customer base. [But] the Raleigh location was built from a vacant car care center, our Durham store was built from the ground up and the Cole Park Plaza location was an old grocery store.
Will you continue to grow the business? The goal is to grow to 30 stores in the next nine years, and then we’ll reassess.
What is your favorite thing about owning your own business? Team-building. I really love it when everybody’s engaged, and we’re all working toward a common purpose.
What are CHT’s efforts to be environmentally friendly? Our Carrboro and Franklin Street stores have solar panels on them. Our Durham store has a green roof; we have a gardener who comes by to weed it and plant native plants.
What is one way CHT gives back to the community? We work closely with an organization called Wheels4Hope that works with local government agencies and people who are battling to get back on their feet. They’ve proven that they can get a job, hold a job and that they can save money to buy a car from Wheels4Hope. We donate our labor and use our talents to give back.
Family Values “Every week, we [highlight] a different value. Every day there’s a morning huddle at each location, and I have a morning call with my leadership team to go over the value of the week. Our five values are ‘strive for excellence,’ ‘treat each other like family,’ ‘say yes to customers and each other,’ ‘be grateful and helpful’ and ‘win as a team.’ We say that these values are the glue that holds us together.”