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ATD Looks North for Inspiration

For the past three years, American Tire Distributors has rewarded its top dealers with an all-expenses-paid excursion to one of Alaska’s premier fishing resorts…and you can bet they’ll be working hard to ensure that next year they’ll earn another ‘trip of a lifetime’

American Tire Distributors is the largest independent supplier of tires to the North American replacement tire market. Founded in 1935 as the J.H. Heafner Company, it has grown from a regional family-owned company to a successful nationwide distribution enterprise with 2012 earnings of $3.4 billion. ATD’s 109 distribution centers servicing 42 states help tire dealers compete with larger retailers by offering the most complete selection of products and value-added services. 

ATD’s rapid-delivery network, experienced customer service reps, dedicated account managers and sales specialists, industry-leading technology platform, state-of-the-art logistics and a variety of marketing support programs all combine to help tire and automotive service retailers succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

These support programs include ATD’s Multiple Affiliate Dealer initiative, co-op advertising allowances, dealer and distributor training, financial business assistance and sales incentives, among others. The company also administers numerous manufacturer-based programs that help dealers market specific tire brands. 

Building Relationships

One such program is a dealer incentive trip co-sponsored by Korean tire manufacturer Nexen, a recognized leader in performance tire technology for its patented rubber/stratified silicate nano-composite tires. The goals of the program are simple: sell more Nexen tires and build stronger relationships between ATD and its key dealers who offer Nexen products.

Ron Sinclair, ATD’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, has been with the company since 2003. Sinclair leads the firm’s marketing, branding and communications strategies, as well as directing the company’s efforts across all dealer programs and vendor marketing programs. He is intimately familiar with the Nexen program, which in recent years has offered top dealers an unforgettable sport fishing trip to Waterfall Resort in Alaska. 

“We conduct a lot of dealer incentive programs here at ATD,” Sinclair says, “and we’ve visited many locations – including numerous hunting and fishing lodges. I am sincere when I say that Waterfall is absolutely a premiere destination. If you want proof, just look at our repeat record…we’ve been there in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and we’re going back again next year. If it wasn’t great, would we be going back for a fourth trip?”   

Waterfall History

The West Coast of Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan in Alaska’s Inside Passage has been fished commercially for over a century. From 1912 through the late 1960s, Waterfall Cannery played a historic role in modern canning and processing of Alaskan salmon. The cannery was a rugged community of seiners, fish trappers and international workers, all coming together to manage the most prolific and innovative salmon processing facility in Alaska. 

In 1980, Ken Dole came to Waterfall Resort, and in 1984 he assumed the role of President and Managing Partner along with two other General Partners, Ken Abe and Marj Boyd, from Hawaii. Beginning in 1983, Waterfall remodeled all buildings, docks and powerful water and electrical capabilities. Over the years the resort has hosted over 50,000 guests, making it the most popular fishing lodge in Alaska. 

“One of our execs had been to Waterfall in the past – about 10 years ago or so – and had a great experience,” says Sinclair when asked how ATD ended up zeroing in on this particular spot. “It’s just an outstanding relationship builder with our customers.”   

Another thing that makes Waterfall such a popular destination is its accessibility. The resort is a short seaplane ride from Ketchikan, AK, which is itself only a little over an hour’s flight from Seattle. This has long made it an ideal high-end, all-inclusive resort for hosting incentive, team-building and corporate event trips. 

Fly In, Float Out, Fish Away

From June 14-17 this year, Sinclair and a group of 16 top dealers from all across the U.S. spent the better part of a week sport fishing and enjoying all Waterfall Resort has to offer. 

“This was our third trip to Waterfall,” notes Sinclair. “ATD has partnered with Nexen a number of times to bring our top dealers together for this wonderful trip. We like Waterfall because it’s a perfect place to bring customers, have a great time, experience world-class fishing and build camaraderie.”  

Day 1: The Promech Air float plane from Ketchikan got in a little after 1pm, and shortly after checking in the group left for an afternoon of fishing – no delays, no downtime, no better way to get acclimated. Lunch each day was served on board each group’s designated cabin cruiser, piloted by experienced, licensed guides who know all the best fishing spots around Noyes, Lulu and Baker Islands – places with names like Pineapple, Granite and Rockpile. 

Returning to Waterfall around 5:30 that day, guests disembarked and their catch was hauled up to the main dock, where fish were weighed, hung up and trophy photos taken. After that the groups repaired to their rooms to clean up and change, while their catch was cleaned, filleted, flash-frozen and vacuum-packed for the trip home. That’s right. In addition to an unforgettable fishing and nature experience, each guest typically goes home with anywhere between 50 and 100 lbs. of the freshest fish on the planet, providing months of fine dining that creates lasting memories every time they sit down to enjoy their artfully prepared catch.

Refuel, Relax, Repeat

The next step in the daily routine at Waterfall usually involves a stop at the Lagoon Saloon, where bartender Ron Koch, an 18-year-employee of the resort, pours your favorite beverage. The saloon overlooks the saltwater lagoon and Tongass National Forest, and it’s not hard to see why guests enjoy relaxing while playing poker or ping pong, shooting pool, throwing darts, checking their email on the saloon’s guest computers, or catching up on the latest sports on the big-screen satellite TV. And if they really feel the need for a more formal gathering, the TV room converts into a comfortable meeting room for 40-50 guests.

“We didn’t have any formal meetings,” says Sinclair, “but we definitely talked quite a bit about business during the course of the trip.”  

This is followed by dinner from 6-8 pm in the resort’s Dining Room (actually the old Cannery Manager’s house) overlooking picturesque Ulloa Channel. The vast array of appetizers, entrees, breads, pastries, soups and salads are prepared fresh daily by Chef Michael Vogler and his staff, and the complementary selection of house wines flows unabated.

Later, guests can opt for a hike to the waterfall (it’s usually light until after 10 pm during the Summer fishing season), relaxing some more in the Lagoon Saloon, or returning to their rooms for a well-deserved night’s sleep before getting up early the next morning and doing it all over again.

Truly Unique

For groups like ATD, accommodations at Waterfall range from 26 Waterfront Cabins to 10 Lodge rooms above the still-operating General Store to 4 Egg House Suites or 4 Waterfront Townhouse Suites with full kitchens and wood-burning fireplaces. And the General Store features logo apparel, various personal necessities, snacks, souvenirs, soda and alcoholic beverages. It also serves as the resort Message Center and offers guest phones and wi-fi service. 

And as if this isn’t enough, Waterfall provides its own on-site Alaska Airline check-in service on departure day where representatives provide guests with seat-assignments, luggage claim checks and boarding passes from Ketchikan to Seattle. Once guests arrive in Ketchikan, their luggage and fish boxes are processed through security and go right to the plane. 

It’s this kind of one-on-one, first-class service that makes Waterfall Resort an unforgettable destination. Each time they visit the resort, ATD’s customers create more Alaska fishing trip memories in a destination that’s truly unique among fishing enthusiasts, nature lovers and outdoor types the world over. 

“The Waterfall experience goes beyond great fishing,” Sinclair says. “The float plane trip. The beautiful environment. The outstanding food. The camaraderie. Those things are always mentioned by our attendees. They consistently say this is a trip of a lifetime. And I know just how they feel. It’s something I start looking forward to the day I’m on the floatplane leaving Waterfall each year. I can’t wait to get back in 2014!”  

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