Chattanooga-based classic wheel and tire maker acquires Paragon Corvette Reproductions
Since the late Harold Coker opened a tire store in Athens, Tennessee, in 1958, Coker Tire Co. has grown from a traditional tire retailer to the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of vintage tires for vehicles and motorcycles.
Owned by New York investment firm Irving Place Capital for three years, Coker Tire continues to evolve and expand in the vintage car equipment market.
The Chattanooga-based classic wheel and tire maker, which now markets itself as Legendary Companies, made its third acquisition in as many years this spring with the purchase of Paragon Corvette Reproductions. Michigan-based Corvette restoration parts manufacturer and supplier offers restoration components for 1953 thru 1996 Corvettes.
“This purchase marks a very important breakthrough for us in increasing the product line that we have,” said Wade Kawasaki, CEO of Legendary Companies who helped lead the purchase of Coker Tire from his founding family. in 2018.
Kawasaki said it plans to increase Chattanooga’s sales, administration and call center staff over the next three to five years to help manage the increased business of Paragon and others. manufacturers of classic car equipment that the company plans to purchase. Kawasaki said Paragon “has an incredible track record in providing the best restoration components for classic Corvettes” and said Paragon founders Steve and Stacey Childs “are second to none” in their knowledge of Corvettes. classic.
Paragon manages more than 36,000 parts for a 43-year-old Corvette lineup.
True to its name, Legendary is keen to purchase other companies like Paragon, considered legendary companies in the industry.
“We are really looking to acquire more businesses aggressively,” said Kawasaki. “With Irving Capital, we have access to a huge team to do our due diligence on all the acquisitions that we are considering and that has also helped us operationally to find the best talent. interior but also add some great new talent. “
In the past, Coker Tire has purchased wheel and tire companies that strengthen its traditional business of producing or distributing tires or wheels around the world. The purchase of Paragon and other similar acquisitions the company is pursuing will build on the company’s existing sales network and product offerings.
“Our existing customers – and new customers attracted to Paragon – will buy restoration parts from us, not just tires,” said Kawasaki. “When you restore a Corvette, yes you are buying Coker tires and wheels, but you may also need weatherstripping, bumpers, exhaust systems and whatever Paragon sells. acquisitions where one plus one equals three and the Paragon purchase is a perfect example. “
Paragon, like other legendary companies, manufactures most of its products in the United States and will continue to operate out of Michigan. The company was founded in the 1970s by Steve and Stacey Childs near Flint, Michigan, where classic Chevrolet Corvettes were originally built.
“When the time came to sell Paragon, we knew we wanted a partner who understood our market and believed in our potential,” said Steve Childs, president of Paragon Corvette Reproductions. “After interviewing many investors, it was clear that Wade and the Irving Place Capital partners were a perfect fit for us. We have to support them with many skills to start increasing their sales and lightening part of the administration. of their plate. We can use our economies of scale to help them get better deals and remove some of the administrative functions from their leaders’ plates so they can focus on what they do most efficiently. “
The purchase of Paragon is the fifth corporate acquisition negotiated by Kawasaki since becoming CEO of Coker Tire in 2014 after Corky Coker retired in 2014. Like the Corkers who have collected classic cars and owns Always Honest Charley Speed Shop in Chattanooga, Kawasaki has been a longtime fan of classic cars.
Kawasaki grew up working at his father’s gas station in Los Angeles during the muscle car era. He then worked in a speed shop and with his wife, Rose, started Exports International in 1987. Kawasaki met Corky Coker through SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), the trade association of producers of products from spare, and soon joined Coker Tire Co.
The CEO of Legendary Cos. Now oversees 14 brands and six operating companies, including Coker Tire, Universal Vintage Tire Co, Phoenix Race Tires, Wheel Vintiques, Roadster Wire Wheels, MOR-Münchner Oldtimer Reifen and The Great Race. Legendary Companies is distributed in over 60 countries.
Kawasaki said sales and inquiries to the company’s call center initially fell dramatically last year when the COVID-19 pandemic first shut down much of the industry. economy. But by mid-April 2020, sales and web traffic quickly returned, “and it’s been a non-stop increase since,” Kawasaki said.
“People weren’t traveling as much or eating out last year, but you could still go to your garage, work on your classic car, or take it for a drive,” he said. he declares. “All these projects that people had been putting off for years, they were taking over.”
Sales remain strong in 2021 even as the economy begins to open up. Kawasaki said bookings had increased by 30% so far in 2021 to an all-time high for the company and that the biggest challenge now is overcoming supply chain disruptions and a tight labor market. to meet growing demand.
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.