What do you get when you cross America’s favorite sport with its most successful retailer? You get Speedway and Superamerica, the country’s #1 and #2 retail tire stores, respectively. Both have been in business for over 80 years and currently have more than 300 locations across North America. Many people might assume that they’re one and the same, but they’re actually two very different companies. Here, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between these two iconic brands.
The Early Years
As we’ve established, Speedway and Superamerica were founded by Rube Goldberg, who started his first tire store in Denver, CO in 1926. After seeing the success of his original store, he opened several more throughout the U.S. and Canada. But even before their foundation, tires were a popular product among racers and speed enthusiasts. In fact, in 1911, automobile pioneers were using metal tires as a substitute for horseshoes. These were eventually replaced with rubber tires after people began noticing differences in handling and performance when compared to metal ones. In 1928, Superamerica was founded by John and Maxfield Herr as an expansion of the Goldberg business. Over the next few decades, both brands would continue to grow, opening multiple stores across the country. In fact, at one point in the mid-2000s, there were more than 500 locations of both brands in the U.S.
Things haven’t always been rosy for the two companies. Like many other tire stores, they’ve had to deal with a number of corporate overlords over the years. In the 1970s, both brands were purchased by a Dutch company called Con-Tactile, which was eventually bought out by a British conglomerate called ICI. In the end, it was the customers who suffered as a result of all these takeovers since quality and service levels declined as stores were acquired by these larger companies. Thankfully, things seem to be returning to normal now as both brands have gotten a “rebirth” and are currently owned by Valaris, an international multi-national corporation. This gives them the freedom to operate at a much higher efficiency level while still being able to provide high-quality product to their customers.
The Same, But Different
Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these two brands. Interestingly, while they have a lot in common, they’re actually quite different from one another. Here are some of the most salient points.
- They’re both named after the city that they were founded in (i.e., Denver, CO for the original Goldberg business, and Vancouver, WA for the Superamerica expansion).
- They’re both family-owned and operated businesses. (Although the Goldberg family still owns 58% of Superamerica as of 2017, it originally purchased the company in 1926 for $25,000.)
- They’re both American brands, although Superamerica is considered the “bigger” of the two due to its worldwide reach.
- They’re both known for their quirky approach to marketing. (In case you’re curious, the company that eventually became Con-Tactile was inspired by a peanut butter commercial from 1915. The ad featured a woman boasting of how her cooking had won over her husband’s fraternity members, resulting in them voting her “Wife of the Year”. This was the first of many commercials that Con Tactile would create, and the rest is history.)
- They’re both considered “classic American brands” and have a loyal following due to their incredible longevity. (People have been buying tires from these two companies for over 80 years now, and they still manage to remain popular today even though alternatives have come along and replaced many of their products. It really is remarkable.)
- They both have a “secret weapon” in their marketing success: referrals. (As we’ve established, both Jack Herr and Rube Goldberg are considered “tire experts”, and they often refer customers to their respective stores when they see a need or a want. For example, Goldberg will often suggest specific sizes and brands for snow tires or heavy-duty truck tires.)
- They both pioneered “multi-brand buildings”, which is when a store offers a variety of tires from different manufacturers (e.g., Michelin, Goodyear, and more).
The Same, But Different
There are a lot of similarities between these two brands, but there are also some key differences. Let’s revisit the list from above and highlight some of the key differences.