24-hour shifts at the fire
department, Knarich runs Pit
Crew, a business he started in
Pit Crew Tire is a one-man
operation, and that man is Craig Knarich, a
mustached, multitasking firefighter who walks as
fast as most people run.
He's like a delivery guy for
the tire industry, bringing new wheels to
customers who are too busy to take their Jaguar
or Corvette to the garage. He is not, he is
quick to point out, in the business of rescuing
people who run over rusty nails. That's for AAA.
Between 24-hour shifts at the
fire department, Knarich, 44, runs Pit Crew (www.pitcrewtire.com),
a business he started in 1990. When a client
makes an appointment, he'll drive to their
office, their house or wherever their car is
parked and install their tires on the spot. Half
the time, he doesn't even see his customers.
Only once has he put new tires
on the wrong car. That was when there were two
Mercedes in an office parking lot.
Knarich ate the cost on that
Most of his customers own
high-end cars and have busy work schedules or
small children who would be less than amenable
to sitting around a tire dealership. "I
provide the nicest waiting room in the
industry," said Knarich, a Palm Harbor
resident who's married and has three children
and one grandchild.
When customers call for an
appointment, most know how many tires they need
and what brand they prefer. If they don't,
Knarich talks them through an at-home tire
Knarich's headquarters is his
Isuzu step truck, its rear 128 square feet
crammed with $65,000 of equipment, including a
spin balancer, a nitrogen generator and a
toolbox with about a billion types of lug nuts.
Everything is bolted down.
The electronic marquee on the
front of the truck has a seven-minute loop of
messages. "Need tires?" it says.
"We come to you." (It also has snarky
messages like "Professional firefighters
bust theirs to save yours." But that's
beside the point.)
Knarich will drive to jobs
throughout most of Pinellas, west Hillsborough
and southwest Pasco counties, and farther if the
customer will pay a service fee.
Business is so good he is
thinking of expanding, maybe by recruiting a few
guys to be owner-operators of their own trucks.