BERWICK - Got tires? Will travel. That is certainly the case with tires purchased by Stephen Manley, a Berwick tire dealer who has been exporting good used tires to customers in Third World countries in Africa and the Caribbean for about six years.
But in the year 2000, an event happened that really sparked the expansion of Manley’s tire sales and exporting business, which is located off Cty. Rd 9 between Berwick and Chesterville, in North Stormont Township.
He was already repairing and exporting reusable second-hand car and truck tires to the southern United States and farm tires to the mid-western United States as well as selling them to markets in Canada.
In addition, he also repairs and or resells a lot of farm and construction tires that many other tire dealers would not repair and would otherwise be scrapped.
The business also takes regular truck tires and puts them on farm vehicles and works on tractor tires for sale locally and to the U.S.
But one day in 2000, by a strange coincidence, he was contacted by a businessman from Ghana, who had seen his small advertisement on the Internet and asked if he had running shoes for sale. "I said: ‘No, we sell tires’ and he said: ‘We need tires too.’"
"This gentleman buys shoes and bicycles too and he had mistaken me for a shoe dealer. It was a total accident, I don’t know what the mixup was, "Manley told The AgriNews. "But there’s a big demand for running shoes in Ghana. If you have a few thousand, let me know."
Following that initial contact, Manley started to ship used tires for resale not only to Ghana but to Togo on the Ivory Coast and Kenya in Africa and the Dominican Republic and Mexico in the Caribbean.
"Then in 2005, I decided to pay a visit to Ghana and find out what was happening with the tires," he said. "It was enlightening to see how they conduct business and how they appreciate tires. They know good ones when they see them."
In southern countries, there is a big demand for tires which undergo a lot of stress not only from the heat, but from moving freight and overloading vehicles. But good second-hand tires from northern countries like Canada work well in Africa and there is a big demand for them.
"I can guarantee that in countries south of here, the tires come from the United States or Canada. We export to countries where there is no snow, where you don’t require the same quality and depth of tread as in this climate."
During his visit to Ghana, Manley stayed at the home of Aura. a wholesale dealer in the industrial area of the City of Kumasi, and he did some touring of the area, even meeting the King’s mother at the palace in Kumasi during his two-week stay.
Although he hasn’t been back, Manley has been invited to return and is considering another visit. "They welcomed me like you wouldn’t believe. They definitely want me to go back for more of a social visit the next time, but my other customers in the Caribbean have invited me to go down there to do future business and get to know their needs more. It’s very interesting to see exactly what it is they do need," he said.
Rather than purchasing from individuals, Manley buys tires by the hundreds from dealers in Ontario, Quebec and the United States. He started his new tire business 18 years ago and the used tire business 10 years ago. One of only a few tire exporters in Ontario, Manley exports up to 2,500 truck tires annually to Third World countries and another 5-6,000 go to local markets in Canada and the United States. He sells approximately 14,000 car tires, with about 50 per cent going to the southern United States and the other half to Third World countries.
A small portion of farm tires go to Third World countries like Ghana, while the majority are sold locally in Canada or in the mid-western United States.