CRYSTAL LAKE – When Bret Mathis opened A1 Tire & Auto with his dad 18 years ago, the automotive industry looked much different.
Businesses were specialized – tune up shops, glass, upholstery. Mathis hung his hat on tires.
But over the years, the landscape has changed, and A1 has changed with it.
“Now, it’s gotten so generalized that everyone has to do just about everything to stay in business,” said Mathis, whose father retired from the shop about a decade ago, leaving him the sole owner.
To that end, Mathis recently made the decision to change locations, moving from the shop he’s called home since the mid-1990s to a new location about a mile and a half away at 6215 A Factory Road A, Crystal Lake.
The new shop has larger doors, allowing A1 to accommodate larger vehicles like boxed vans, which they couldn’t fit into the old space. The last shop also tended to get hot in the summer and cold in the winter, a fact Mathis said he knows his customers took note of. This shop alleviates that problem.
And at 7,750 square feet, the new location packs on an extra 1,000 square feet to operate, allowing the store to continue to expand services going forward.
“We always had to explain to people we did more than just tires,” Mathis said. “It’s everything, basically, but body work. Now we’re trying to emphasize more on the service end of it rather than just tires.”
Although A1 started out specializing in tires, the shop now provides full service under the hood and can diagnose and fix just about any problem a motorist might be having.
Recently, the shop has started installing Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device, or BAIID, monitors. It’s another way for Mathis to gain an edge in a cluttered industry.
He’s also working on building a kid’s play area in the building.
The issue now is finding ways to get the word out. Mathis sent out post cards and took out ads, but he said he’s sure it will still take some time for his customers to get used to the change – 18 years is a long time.
“Over the course of the years, we’ve made a lot of friends in that complex,” he said. “But business is business and you got to do what you got to do.
“Long-term, it’s going to be a fantastic move.”