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Have shop, will travel

Go Tire franchisee takes vehicle-repair service to customershis the

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Cory Popplestone sits in his mobile service van in Brandon. The Go Tire franchise is the first one in Manitoba.

TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Cory Popplestone sits in his mobile service van in Brandon. The Go Tire franchise is the first one in Manitoba.

BRANDON -- Cory Popplestone wants to make your life easier.

He wants to take all those time-consuming visits to the service garage for stupid little things such as repairing a flat tire, or rebalancing your wheels, or a stone chip in your windshield, or even a burnt-out turn signal bulb, and save you the trip.

Popplestone operates Manitoba's first Go Tire franchise, the vehicle service that comes to you. Go Tire comes with a fully loaded garage in the back of a panel van equipped for tire, glass and cleaning services. He'll even replace your windshield.

And while the service is only out of Brandon right now, Popplestone is sure it will spread into Winnipeg soon. There are already franchises across Canada as far as Newfoundland.

"People have trouble getting their heads around the concept. They'll phone and say, where do I take my car?' " said Popplestone.

Take it to work. He'll fix it while your car is sitting in the parking lot. Or call him at home. Making house calls is the whole idea. He'll fix it in your driveway or parked on the road. It means you don't have to be without your vehicle for a day while it's at the garage.

If you get a flat tire on the road, give him a call. He'll fix your flat on the spot for $35 plus tax. He had a call the previous night at 7 p.m. A valve broke on a tire on an MTS fleet car he fixed. He gets about two calls a week for roadside assistance.

Need new tires? He has access to most tire models. Need to apply or remove your winter tires? He'll do it at your home or workplace for $99, including rebalancing. He also stores them in a Tire Hotel. He operates 24/7.

Go Tire is the brainchild of Red Deer, Alta., couple Heather Murphy and Craig Howse. They took their business to CBC's entrepreneur-finder TV series, Dragon's Den, last year. The investors loved it so much two panellists, Kevin O'Leary and Bruce Croxon, partnered their investment.

Popplestone was watching the show at home and a light bulb went on. "I've always wanted to have my own business. I just didn't know what it was," he said. That changed when he opened his franchise last July.

Franchise fees depend on size of the territory and range from $20,000 to $40,000. The equipment package is $76,000. The van is purchased by the franchisee but they can lease the van and equipment through a leasing partner for 10 per cent down, said Murphy.

Popplestone previously managed a trucking firm that repaired its own semi-truck tires. Go Tire franchises require a three-week training course. About four days are spent on tires, the same industry-approved course taken by employees of regular tire shops.

Another part of the course is changing windshields and repairing stone chips. With the snow starting to melt, "All of a sudden I'm doing a windshield (chip repair) almost every day," Popplestone said.

Stone-chip repairs are free, the same as if you took your car to a garage. The chip repairs are covered by Manitoba Public Insurance. Go Tire is MPI-accredited. "It's a simple process. You sign the form, and we put it through online," he said.

Popplestone recently fixed a windshield that had eight stone chips. The customer didn't want a new windshield. MPI still approves the repair as long as it doesn't cost them more than the cost of a new windshield.

He's already repaired more stone chips than he can count, and installed more than 60 new windshields. He also replaces windshield wipers.

Popplestone covers Brandon and a radius within an hour's drive of the city. Over half of his business has been out of town so far. In addition to individual calls, he also does commercial fleets, which includes a light-cleaning service.

He'll replace a burned-out tail light bulb for $10 but if that's the only service, he'll schedule it for when he's in the area. His prices follow industry standards. He can stay competitive because he doesn't carry the overhead costs of a building and staff.

Go Tire does battery boosts, like a private CAA, and an emergency lockout service. Popplestone recently had to boost a farmer's combine that had died on an abandoned farmyard that didn't have electrical hookup anymore. He also services tires for semi-trucks, quads and golf carts.

Go Tire also has a super cleaning service it calls "detailing." It's a three-hour inside-out job that's supposed to make your vehicle like new, including shampooing seats or conditioning leather, and applying an interior protectant to the dash and panels. It goes for $150.

Popplestone wasn't sure how busy that service would be, but it's surprised him.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2014 A8

History

Updated on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 2:31 PM CDT: corrects info about franchise fee

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