Written by: Michelle Slieff
Where does the open road take you in car-centric Southern California? What’s on the radio? For me, a drive through Costa Mesa is surreal. It’s amazing how many businesses come and go along the boulevard. Then there is Grand Prix Performance, a local business that has been around for over forty years. Longevity is beyond impressive when compared to our ever changing face of the community. It makes one wonder what it takes to keep the business alive and going strong for that many years. Jerry Palanjian has been an active member of the community and owner of Grand Prix Performance for as long as we can remember. Generations have been coming here for quality products and quality customer service. In the recent years, he has integrated his family into the business and has the pleasure of working closely with his children and nephew. When you walk through the front door of Grand Prix Performance, you too will feel like family. There is a strong sense of community support behind this team. We sat down with Jerry and his mascot dog Bono to find out exactly what it takes to establish and build a successful business. We found out what’s trending for tires, what it’s like to work with family and discovered where the best place is to take a Sunday drive.
Q: How did you make the decision to open Grand Prix Performance?
Jerry Palanjian: Initially, I just had a hunch it was a promising industry, and with my interest in cars (especially nice cars) it felt like a good fit for me. It took a lot of long days, weeks and months, but now 43 years later, I’m fortunate to say my hunch panned out. Every day I feel grateful that I still enjoy what I do.
Q: Why tires?
JP: By a happy accident I started working in the tire business. I quickly realized that it was a relevant product, especially in the car-centric culture of Southern California. Just look around and see what is on everyone’s cars: tires. I like being able to provide a product and service that people truly need. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you are helping to keep your customers and their families safe.
Q: What advice would you have for other people wanting to open their own business?
JP: It’s pretty simple. Give it the best you’ve got— the best price, the best service, the best everything. You have to take care of people and treat people the way you want to be treated.
Q: What does a good business model need to be able to stay in business for over 40 years?
JP: Commitment. Consistency. Relevance. And most of all, Heart. Your customers need to know that they can trust you and count on you to deliver the same good service and expert advice time and time again. No one hit wonders here!
Q: For those long time loyal customers that you’ve acquired, how do you keep it fresh for them? What are some new things that are in the works for Grand Prix Performance?
JP: We have some exciting things coming in the new year. We will have to talk again as they get closer.
Q: How are you a trendsetter in your industry?
JP: At Grand Prix Performance, we have a heritage of staying ahead of the trends. We think of wheels and accessories as “fashion for cars” and know that if you aren’t innovating and pushing yourself to grow, you’re dying. My children help me to stay on top of the latest trends. We just saw some incredible new products, equipment and technology at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and look forward to offering them to our customers in the coming year. Oh and speaking of what’s trending, don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot more gold and bronze colored wheels on the road. You heard it here first folks!
Q: Tell us, what is it like working so closely with family?
JP: It’s been a wonderful experience. I feel very fortunate to work so closely with my children and nephew.
Q: How did your mascot, Bono, come into the picture? For those of you who don’t know, Bono is Jerry’s German Shepherd who has become a fixture at Jerry’s shop.
JP: Over the years we’ve allowed the Costa Mesa Police Department’s K9 unit to do training exercises in our tire yard behind the shop so I’ve always had an interest in these dogs. One of the police officers (who is also a friend and customer) now trains these dogs and brought Bono by because he said he was a special dog that I had to meet. At first I wasn’t’ sure, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that dog. The next day I called my friend and told him to bring Bono back over and the rest is history. My daughter (Jessica) says it was love at first sight.
Q: How does Grand Prix Performance give back to the community?
JP: We are the definition of local…We live and work (and play) in this community. That’s why it’s so important to us to support it. Orange County is where my children went to school. It’s where so many of our employees and customers (and their children) go to school. This is why we support all the local schools however we can. We also get involved in many other local charities. We believe it is so important to participate in and support this community that’s been so good to us all these years. We also believe in shopping local so we do our best to support other local businesses and feel we all need to stick together to remain strong. #shoplocaloc
Q: How do I help make my tires last longer?
JP: Rotation, inflation and alignment are all key contributors to the health and lifespan of your tires. Or you can just come see us and we’ll take care of all of that for you so you don’t have to worry about it. Plus we do free tire rotations for customers!
Q: What’s your favorite vehicle to drive down the open road?
JP: On a perfect sunny Southern California day, I love to drive my pale yellow 1972 Jaguar XKE convertible.
Q: For someone looking to take a Sunday drive, what road would you suggest they take?
JP: We live in the most beautiful place in the world and have so many gorgeous options, but I have to say that the drive from Newport Beach to Dana Point on PCH is still one of my favorites.
Q: What are the best car shows to attend in the area?
JP: We love the Coastline Car Classic in Corona del Mar…Beautiful classic cars set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Plus, they raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Pretty hard to beat that.
Q: How would you describe your experience and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
JP: It’s been a wonderful trip. Everybody should be so lucky. I’ve been blessed with a great wife and family, a wonderful business and the best customers a guy could hope for. Can’t wait to see what my kids do with the next 43 years of the business.