(Photos by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If all goes as planned, the empty shelves in the photo above will be filled with tires by this time next Tuesday – the day Les Schwab Tires hopes to open its new West Seattle store in The Triangle.
The shelves are in the basement of the one-time Huling Brothers (and briefly Gee) building on the southwest corner of 38th/Alaska, and will hold most of the 2,200-plus tires to be offloaded early opening-day morning by dozens of Les Schwab managers from around the region, after two tractor-trailer trucks roll up from the company’s distribution center in the central Oregon town of Prineville, right onto the new concrete:
The initial-stocking operation is “an amazing thing to witness,” smiles Rich Baalman, area manager for 43 stores including this one, from Federal Way to Port Angeles to the Canadian border. (He himself is based in Monroe, where he also manages that store.)
Though Rich calls the West Seattle location – the plan for which was first reported here, back in January – a “paint-and-go” shop, much more than paint has gone into it over the past four months of construction. It’s spruced up what was a neighborhood eyestore with major remodeling – which even extends out onto the sidewalk and beyond. See for yourself:
On the east side of the half-century-old building, Les Schwab has planted new trees, and is redoing the sidewalk and driveway, which will be an entry way into the service bays on that side. But take note – the folks across 38th might be headed out in a hurry now and then:
That’s Fire Station 32, home to Ladder 11 and Medic 32 as well as Engine 32. “We love having the fire department as neighbors,” Rich says. But let’s back up a bit. Meet store manager Paul Howell – who transferred from Midvale, Utah – and assistant manager Mike Nestor, who came from Kent:
Rich notes that Les Schwab has a strong internal-promotion ethic (and employee profit-sharing, based on performance at the employee’s location, not companywide). Paul and Mike will be leading a 10-plus-member staff. If you need to talk to management, you’ll find Paul’s office right up front, next to the service desk, inside the main building, where counters and the computer system are now in place:
The windows, flooring, even ceilings have all been part of the renovation. The built-in shelves right below the windows were about to get some tile work while we were there.
The customer waiting area is nearby – and it’ll have wi-fi, Rich assured us (though they hope you won’t be waiting too long – their goal, he says, is 30 to 45 minutes for tires, for example). Computers also figure into the operation behind the scenes:
That equipment will comprise a kiosk in the employee room, to be used for training, including video-viewing and tests. Back in the customer-service realm, there’ll be a computer program to show you how your vehicle might look with certain types of wheels/tires. Then, there’s the technology that actually is deployed for installing and servicing them:
The eastern bays will focus on alignment and brakes. Some of that will be done in the western bays too, where the gray racks in the background are for the tire/wheel work:
Back to the exterior – they fixed up the west side too, but left the quirky little “flower” molds that turned out to be functional as well – note the added surveillance cameras:
And the alley running along the south side is now paved, with windows on that side of the building covered – not just a security issue, but an issue of insulation to save energy, Rich noted:
They’ve also added what Rich called a “state of the art” HVAC system, for use as needed. Once it’s up and running next week (again, they’re hoping for Tuesday, provided all goes well), the official hours will be 8 am-6 pm Mondays-Fridays, 8 am-5 pm Saturdays, but Rich says if you’re there a little early – they’re bound to welcome you in. They’ve striped the lot to the west for parking:
Les Schwab has almost 400 stores around the West, and Rich says it’s the only company he’s ever worked for, going back a quarter century:
You’ll see him out there with his area managers next week, when the tires arrive; other inventory is scheduled to get there sooner.