By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Family to family. That’s how John Hulsey described the change in ownership of R&G Tire Center.
Hulsey is general manager of East Bay Tire Co., a large, fourth-generation, family-owned California business that took over ownership of Hilo’s R&G Tire Center on Jan. 1.
“We were looking to expand our footprint on the Big Island,” Hulsey said.
Ginger Carvalho, who owned the Hilo tire business with her husband Rod — Rod and Ginger, hence R&G — said simply, “The time is right, it’s a good opportunity.” Especially for Rod, who’s 66 and thinking about retirement. “At my age — 66 — it’s nice,” he said.
For the time being, the Carvalhos will continue to run the business for Fairfield, Calif.-based EBT, utilizing their market experience to bridge the transition. The existing four employees at the Kona store, and the 15 employees in Hilo, will remain, Ginger said. The Carvalhos’ daughters, Kimberly and Jennifer, also will continue to work in the business.
“They are just good people, high integrity” said George Pehanick, whose grandfather started EBT following the end of World War II. “And Rod doesn’t need the daily stress any more.”
Pehanick, current EBT owner, is a frequent visitor to Hawaii. “Hilo is wonderful when it’s not raining cats and dogs,” he said, laughing. “I like that little town. The Big Island has a lot to offer. Hawaii is a special place.”
“He’s a long-time supporter of ours,” Ginger said.
“We’re experiencing growth in our company, and it made strategic sense to expand our presence in Hawaii,” Hulsey said. “The entire staff at R&G will be staying on, and we will be taking advantage of their market expertise to continue growing our business.”
It’s not a new relationship by any means. R&G and EBT have been an item for 15 years, courting each other’s business ever since the Carvalhos bought out Motor Supply in 1998 and established their own piece of the hotly competitive Hawaii Island tire business. EBT has been supplying tire products to R&G from the beginning.
“We’ve grown a lot,” Ginger said. “We began with only 10 employees and one location and have since grown to service Hilo and Kona with two locations and 25 employees.
EBT has been a family-owned tire wholesaler, exporter and commercial tire dealer since 1946, with five locations in California and one in Waipahu, Oahu.
Hulsey said the move will give the business “more product accessibility,” meaning customers will see a “dramatic increase” in the major brand-name products they have to choose from. EBT has 1 million square feet of warehouse space and “the most diverse inventory this side of the Mississippi River,” he said.
“You’re limited by how much you can inventory,” Hulsey said. “The whole idea of a larger company is that we can stock more tires.”
The business is expected to remain at its 612 Kalanianaole St. location, where they have about 20,000 square feet under lease. Hulsey has been at the location working with the Carvalhos for two weeks to ease the transition.
“It’s an easy transition,” Ginger said. “It’s nice to know people personally, and to have the respect we have for one another.” Financial details of the sale were not released.
Loyalty and longevity is a virtue at R&G. Half the crew originally came over from Motor Supply, Ginger said. Rod himself was employed by Motor Supply when he and Ginger bought them out.
One big difference under new ownership is an updated computer system, Rod said. “Out with the old, in with the new,” he said. The new name will be a simple combination: “R&G Tire Center and East Bay Tire Company.”
The popular R&G website where customers can make appointments and get price quotes will remain at least for a while, Hulsey said, until eventually being incorporated into the EBT site. “We’ll link to our website.”
“We’re glad for the opportunity to stay on,” Rod said. “Product is now coming in … (EBT) has been great support for us.
“We have a good relationship. It’s a family thing that makes sense.”
Email Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.