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Jon Langerak is Modern Tire Dealer’s 2023 Tire Dealer of the Year

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Jon Langerak is Modern Tire Dealer’s 2023 Tire Dealer of the Year

Introducing Modern Tire Dealer’s 2023 Tire Dealer of the Year: Jon Langerak

 

We are thrilled to announce that Jon Langerak, president and CEO of Wonderland Tire, has just been named MTD’s 2023 Tire Dealer of the Year! Thank you, Modern Tire Dealer, for this recognition!

Jon has been a crucial part of Wonderland Tire’s flourishing growth over the last two decades, keeping the company at the forefront of industry-leading technology, crafting a steady plan of succession, and bringing in 10-15% of revenue growth year after year. 

Don’t miss Modern Tire Dealer’s article in the September 2023 publication highlighting Jon Langerak, his history with the company, and his long-term vision of growth for Wonderland Tire!

Get to Know MTD’s 2023 Tire Dealer of the Year

Jon Langerak first joined Wonderland Tire at the age of 15—along with his younger brother Dave Langerak, Wonderland Tire’s current chief operating officer and co-owner, who joined just a few months later. 

Our very first job was patching tubes,” said Jon in MTD’s Tire Dealer of the Year article. “There was a pile in the corner and I could barely reach to the top of it, that’s how many there were.”

In those days, Wonderland Tire was a much smaller operation. However as the company began to grow along with Jon’s responsibilities within the company, he quickly realized that he was interested in moving into ownership.

“In the early ’90s, me and my brother, Bill, who was also working in the family business and running our retread plant, decided we were going to go out on our own and start our own retread plant. We started to buy and store our own equipment.

It was this endeavor that led Jon and Bill to strike up a friendship with Bob Majewski, founder of the AcuTread mold cure retread system, and begin selling AcuTread retreads to local fleet customers. Eventually, Jon, Bill, and Dave took the proposal to the then-owners, Henry and Earl, and convinced them to take a risk on the AcuTread product under the Wonderland Tire umbrella.

The risk paid off and was a huge step for Jon in the direction of ownership. AcuTread shook up the markets where Wonderland Tire operated and became a major growth catalyst for the company. With the success of AcuTread and the rapid growth of Wonderland Tire, Jon and Dave’s responsibilities within the company multiplied and they became majority shareholders in 2008.

Since then, Jon, alongside his brother Dave, has spearheaded Wonderland Tire’s growth trajectory—acquiring several new dealerships that were without successors, developing a more robust corporate structure, and establishing a big-picture approach in everything Wonderland Tire does.

A trained AcuTread technician is using the AcuTread® Tread Molding and Curing machines to mold the new tread.

AcuTread: A Game-changing Move in the Right Direction

Before becoming an AcuTread retreader, Wonderland Tire was affiliated with another tread rubber supplier and production was relatively modest. But that’s when they started buying AcuTread mold cure products from Newport, KY-based Sumerel Tire Service Inc., a company Wonderland would eventually acquire in 2021. 

“We put them into our fleet customers to see how they would run,” said Jon in MTD’s article. “And they were fantastic! We called (AcuTread founder) Bob Majewski up and said, ‘We want to become an AcuTread retreader.’”

After taking the “million-dollar” leap of investment, Wonderland Tire built its first AcuTread product in 1998 and the customer feedback was immediate and positive

Jon and Dave soon began developing new tread designs. “We don’t go as wide as Michelin or Bandag or Goodyear, but we cover all the essentials,” said Jon. “We even have SmartWay-verified products.”

Having its own system and products gives Wonderland Tire the freedom to be independent and do the right thing for its customers. In MTD’s article, Jon is quoted saying, “Take a particular tread design — if we want to build it, we can build it. All of our designs and rubber compounds are proprietary. AcuTread is an exclusive product. Nobody else has it.” 

And now, according to Dave Langerak, AcuTread is “the most pivotal, strategic thing we’ve done as a company.” While the risks were large, the outcome was so much better than Wonderland Tire could have hoped for, changing the company for the better. We truly wouldn’t be the company we are today without it!

Wonderland Tire's next-gen group members stand with the current Wonderland Tire owners in front of the corporate offices in Byron Center, MI.

A Strategic Plan for the Next Generation

After seeing other tire dealers fail to have a succession plan or wait too long to think about one, Jon and Dave Langerak knew that they needed to start talking about planning for their succession. They didn’t want Wonderland Tire employees to fall victim to the lack of a plan.

With that in mind, the “next-gen” group was created. In an internal document written for next-gen group members, Jon writes, “Very few family businesses survive until the fourth generation. However, family businesses also have the capability to be very resilient in comparison to their non-family counterparts. Wonderland Tire needs good governance and management, long-term thinking, profitability, and strong foundations.”

Members of Wonderland Tire’s next-gen group go through a rigorous, multi-year training program, starting when they are 12 to 15 years old, sweeping shop floors and cleaning offices. And once they have mastered those responsibilities, they move to the next level, working on tires, and are meant to keep advancing until they finish the program at the age of 22.

The program allows the next-gen group members to find their strengths whether it’s in management or ownership. “We’re looking at this thing generationally,” said Jon in MTD’s recent article. “And we’re doing the things needed to keep Wonderland Tire moving forward. There’s great satisfaction seeing our family and our employee’s families grow and develop and knowing I’m a part of that.”

Family Focused and Family Driven

“We’re not in business just to make money,” said Jon in MTD’s article. “We have close to 200 employees and they all have families. That’s a motivator for me. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt by me not running a business in a good way.”

At Wonderland, we are dedicated to treating everyone like family, from our employees to our customers. That’s just good business. And with Jon leading the way, that’s the way things will stay.

For now, Jon looks forward to continuing to develop Wonderland Tire’s next group of owners and managers while keeping the pedal to the medal. With new services to introduce, new products to sell, and new customers to win over, there is always something on the horizon.

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