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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 8 months ago

Led by Capt. Jack Spare, tire company hoists the sales

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It's a pirate's life for the fast-growing firm's vice president.

The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival brings buccaneers, marauders and rogues of all stripes to Tampa to honor the legend of Jose Gaspar, the Spanish naval officer who, if the stories are to be believed — and scholarly research says they probably shouldn’t — turned to piracy and terrorized the Gulf of Mexico in the late 18th and early 19th centuries about his ship, the Floriblanca.

RNR Tire Express Vice President Vince Ficarrotta portrays Capt. Jack Spare at store openings across the country. Courtesy photo.

But the truth never stood in the way of a good party, and one Tampa business has gotten in on the act with a swashbuckling pirate legend of its own. Capt. Jack Spare has become the unofficial mascot of RNR Tire Express, a Tampa-based tire and custom wheel company that has nearly 120 franchises in 23 states and topped $150 million in revenue in 2018.

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Capt. Jack Sparrow from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise, Jack Spare (get it?) is portrayed not by a marketing intern, but one of the company's big wheels. RNR Vice President Vince Ficarrotta, 57, appears as the character at store grand openings across the country.

“Ultimately, it’s about ‘made you look,’” Ficarrotta says. “If I made you look, now I can tell you how we’re different.”

Ficarrotta has been living the pirate life for three or four years now and estimates he’s attended somewhere between 40 and 50 store openings as Jack Spare. (“Come check out your new ‘Arrrrrh n’ Arrrrrh’" is one of his signature catchphrases.)

“It’s not an interruption of my day-to-day activities as much as it is an opportunity to see the culmination of months and months, sometimes as much as a year, of preparation, due diligence contracts, finding a store location, building out a store and recruiting, staffing and training,” he says. “Then the store finally opens and I get to come see the fruits of [the franchisee’s] labors, and celebrate with everyone as Capt. Jack Spare.”

This year looks to be the captain’s busiest yet, Ficarrotta says, with at least 22 store openings adding to RNR’s treasure chest. 

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