Our Tire Business History
February 27, 2023
Written By Jon Ihler
In December 2022, the MFA Oil Board of Directors and management approved the purchase of 13 Big O Tires stores in the Kansas City metropolitan area. You can read more about the acquisition on the next page (5). The deal marks the single largest purchase in the history of the company’s tire and automotive maintenance business.
The automotive repair and maintenance market has grown significantly over the last 10 years. Industry experts predict it will continue to soar due to the rising average age of U.S. consumer automobiles. Having a network of 35 Big O Tires stores in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas puts us in an exceptional position to meet the tire and service needs of customers in our markets. These stores also contribute to the financial success of the cooperative.
As we continue to invest in the tire and retail automotive industry, I want to highlight our history and how we got to where we are today. MFA Oil has been involved in the tire business since Oct. 1, 1962, when we assumed control of MFA Tire Division, a former operating unit of Missouri Famers Association Inc. The division focused on providing customers with tires that ensured safe driving at an economical price. Two historical brands, Kelly-Springfield and Multi-Mile, were sold. For nearly 40 years, MFA Oil operated two large tire warehouses, which were unmatched in the co-op’s trade territory. The warehouses allowed for extensive inventories to be stored and delivered with prompt service.
In 1998, MFA Oil management joined forces with TBC Corporation, one of the co-op’s largest tire suppliers, to bring a Big O Tires franchise to Missouri. Partnering with TBC Corp. via a joint venture met both companies’ needs and interests in retail expansion. In 2005, MFA Oil sold its wholesale tire distribution business.
By 2015, the cooperative found itself in superb financial condition, and the MFA Oil Board of Directors and management agreed to buy out TBC Corp.’s interest in the joint venture, which had grown to include 14 Big O Tires stores in Missouri and northwest Arkansas. Full ownership allowed us to be more flexible and make quicker business decisions. It also granted an opportunity for MFA Oil Premium Lubricants to be used during oil changes at the company-owned stores.
Fast forward to today, and MFA Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of MFA Oil, has become the largest Big O Tires franchisee in the country. I am excited about our prospects for continued growth in this business and the benefits that it brings to the whole cooperative. We see great things in the future of our retail automotive business thanks in no small part to the leadership provided by Charlie Alexander, senior director of Big O Tires, and his team. Charlie is one of the best leaders in the tire business and provides outstanding oversight of our store operations. If you need new tires or automotive service work, I hope you will consider visiting one of our 35 Big O Tires locations.