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It’s Hercules’ 70th Anniversary – Here’s How Our First Dealer is Still Thriving

By Bob Knaack and Mike O’Shea Owners, Robbins & Franke Tire & Auto Repair, Cliffside Park, New Jersey

An old photograph of the original Hercules Tires dealer, Robbins and Franke.

Hercules Tires are in our blood – and we mean that almost literally.

Our families have owned the business since 1960. That’s when they bought it from Robbins & Franke, the original owners, who began carrying Hercules Tires when the brand started in 1952. That makes us the first and oldest Hercules dealer in the nation.

When the original owners were set to retire more than 60 years ago, our two families – Bob’s grandfather and Mike’s father (also named Robert and Mike) – bought the business.

Both of us grew up in the tire business and have known about Hercules since we were kids. We started by unloading tires from trailers during summers as teenagers, worked here in college, and joined the business full-time after graduating from college.

So, we were born into it. Both of us knew from the start it’s what we wanted to do.

We’re a busy shop, servicing about 60 cars each day. In addition to tires, we provide other basic car repair services – oil changes, brake service, wheel alignments, and batteries.

This is Hercules Tires country. Approximately 75 percent of the tires we sell are the Hercules and Ironman brands. And given where we are, we sell a lot of tires.  

We are just two miles from the George Washington Bridge, directly across from Manhattan. It’s a densely populated area with approximately 1 million people living within eight square miles. As we say, it’s not so good for traffic, but it’s good for business.

Our customer base is deep; we have about 35,000 people in our computer management system. Because we’ve been here for several decades, most of our customers buy the tires we recommend.

We have a lot of third-generation customers who ask us which tires to buy – we always recommend Hercules. For those looking for the most affordable tire, we provide them with Ironman. But many of our long-time customers just ask for Hercules. Most people are willing to pay a little more for a quality tire.

For several reasons, the Hercules Tires brand is an easy sell for us. First, everyone who works here drives on Hercules Tires. That’s the best endorsement one could ask for.

Next, no matter which tire they buy, we always make sure they know about the two-year road hazard warranty. It’s a huge selling feature.

We carry nearly the entire line of Hercules Tires. One of our best-selling tires is the RoadTour 855 SPE tires for passenger car, as well as the 655 and 455 models.

When it comes to the new models released last year, the new Terra Trac AT X-Journey and AT X-Venture have been extremely popular. Some of our customers who go hunting in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, as well as people driving trucks to a construction job site. The new tire models have appealed to both of these groups. We also have a half-dozen wholesale customers with large trucks. Once we put the AT-X Venture on those vehicles, word spreads fast.

On the commercial side, we have a few fleet customers who buy the Strong Guard line, mostly the 19.5-inch tires used on trucks like the Ford F 450. We also have a company FedEx account with eight trucks, and we put Hercules Tires on all of those.

One final benefit we’ve experienced working with Hercules is its ownership by American Tire Distributors (ATD). Since ATD bought Hercules in 2014, we’ve started receiving our tires much more quickly and carrying much less inventory. That helps us service our customers faster and saves us money.

Here’s a great example of the ATD benefit. Years ago, we needed to place an order for a trailer full of tires and have them delivered from the company’s Findlay, Ohio facility.  We’d have to put together an order of 1,500 tires and get 40 of one model, 60 of another, and so on.

Today, it’s so much easier. We stock 6-8 tires in the Hercules lineup and we get between 20-60 tires a day delivered from ATD. If we need a tire on the same day, we get it. And that’s made a huge difference in our inventory costs. We used to have stock up to 6,000 tires. Now, we stock approximately 800 tires at our shop.

We’re proud to be Hercules’ first and oldest dealer. It’s not only given us a livelihood, but also the ability to provide for our families and a valuable service for our customers. We’ll celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary in the usual way – we’ll come to work six days a week and provide people the best tire we know.