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How Metro Wheels Got Rolling
by Tim Gowens
Metro Wheels Inc. in Marietta, Georgia, is the country's premier wheel repair and replacement facility. But we have not always been the sophisticated, technically accurate facility that we are today.
I started the company in 1989 with $100 borrowed from my mother. I bought a business license and a pack of cheap business cards. With the rest - the huge amount of $60 - I went to every tire shop in the area, buying up old steel wheels and hubcaps, while proclaiming that I could get any wheels that they needed. I recorded a message on my home answering machine that went something like this: "Hello and thank you for calling Metro Wheels. You have reached our answering service (ha ha). Please leave us the size, make and model of the wheel you are searching for; we will call you back momentarily with a price and the availability. We will be glad to assist you! Once again, thank you for calling."
I tried to sound really professional - well, as professional as any 20-year-old kid could sound - and can you believe it, they started calling me and leaving messages! It was so exciting! I would check my messages throughout the day from work.
During my lunch hour at a job - after morning classes in college, where I was studying to become a mechanical engineer - I would scour out junkyards for the wheels that the tire shops wanted. Once I found it, I would go collect payment for the wheel, use the money to buy the wheel the next day, paint it with black spray paint that evening in the basement of my house, and deliver it the following day. It was tough being in college, having a full time job that I hated, studying for classes that I hated, going to junkyards during the day and trying not to get to dirty for the job that required me to dress nicely.
For two years, I kept whatever profits I gained minus expenses like paint, gas, taxes, etc. Man, those were truly very hard days. After two years of running myself crazy, I came to my senses and realized that I wanted to be in the wheel business full time. I was making pretty good money. As a matter of fact, I was making as much from the wheel business as I was at my "real job" - pulling down an incredible $7.25 per hour. I remember asking my boss for a 25 cents per hour raise after having been there for 3 years, and he turned me down. He said he couldn't afford it. That was it! I walked away from my job and classes, and started delivering pizza in the evenings.
During the day, I was the wheel king: working out of my basement, backyard and a 1972 diesel VW bug. I remember having a wreck in the old VW bug while rushing to my pizza delivery job and bending a wheel. But I had a replacement in my backyard! That was a great sign that I was on the right track.
When I came to the place where I needed more space, I found this old house on South Cobb Drive in Marietta, Georgia. I spoke with the owner, who told me that he was going to have it torn down. He also told me that there were five homeless men living in the house. Well, that was a little intimidating.
But I agreed to rent the place for $200 a month, clean it up, and try to get the men out of the building. So I called the police. The next night they rounded them up with police dogs! As you can imagine, they were not real pleased with that. So they all are out in the middle of a cold September night, standing in the parking lot with the police car lights shinning on them, the police dogs barking, the wind blowing their white beards. . . and here I come. This 22-year-old punk announces, "Beginning tomorrow, I'm going to rent the place and you need to be out of the building." One guy said that he had lived there for seven years and asked me where he was supposed to go. I said that I didn't know, but that I would pay them all to help me clean up the place. The next day, one guy did show up and was a pretty good helper. I paid him cash but he did not show up the next day.
It took me one solid month of heavy cleaning and cutting down trees before I could move in. The house had no running water, no electricity or heat - and was completely ready to be bulldozed. The ceiling was down in places and we could barely enter some rooms, but it was what I could afford.
I remember digging the ditch for the water line - "18" deep and wide and the length of a basketball court - for 12 hours straight, part of it through a parking lot. I couldn't afford to have the water line dug by a professional, so I did it myself with some help from a buddy. This was a terrible 12 hours! It had to be done because the next day, cars needed to cross over the area where I was digging. It ended up that part of the water line was exposed and every winter, no matter what I did to protect it, our water would freeze for days on end. That 12-hour day was the hardest day that I can remember having in my Metro Wheels history.
The same was true with the electricity - I almost killed myself by cutting the wrong wire - and heat. It was years before I could afford air conditioning, so I sweated it out every summer. The house was on top of a dirt hill with a million cross ties around it with stairs that my brother had built for me. We ran up and down those stairs every day for years, carrying wheels and tires out to our customer's cars. It kept me in shape, but very tired. I had no need for a gym membership. Here's a picture of the old house, just for kicks.
Well, that was many years ago. Since then, we have tried to excel in all areas of the wheel replacement and wheel repair industry. We also have many tires, hubcaps and centercaps to service the replacement market. If the wheel cannot be replaced with a quality used wheel, we now have a machine shop to rebuild the wheel and make it look brand new.
Metro Wheels is well situated to provide the highest level of service in the alloy wheel repair industry. We are a fixed base enterprise operating from a 23,000 square foot facility on three acres that we have owned for years in Marietta. We operate a full alloy wheel repair and remanufacturing plant that is capable of providing fast turn-around times - and we have room to grow when it's time. We also stock more than 50,000 pieces of inventory for replacing alloy wheels, centercaps, hubcaps, tires, specialty lug nuts and steel wheels.
Thanks for taking the time to familiarize yourself with Metro Wheels Inc. It has been an interesting journey full of great people and challenging situations. We have recently become an AAA-approved facility and we hope this will provide new customers with similar philosophies about business and work-related ethics. If you would like to make a comment or you have any questions, you can reach me at [email protected] On our website you will find tools to help identify the product you need, as well as valuable information about the wheel replacement and repair industry.
Tim Gowens, Owner Metro Wheels Inc.
Written on Thursday, January 16, 2014 by