Hill­yard Rim Lions to launch on­line busi­ness

Re­tail di­vi­sion will be clos­ing Nov. 30

The Hamilton Spectator - - Business - MIKE PEAR­SON

Even as the brick-and-mor­tar di­vi­sion winds down, Hill­yard Rim Lions promises to re­main the king of the jun­gle when it comes to au­to­mo­tive wheels and tires.

Orig­i­nally called Nand Sihra and Sons — Hill­yard Auto Body when it opened Nov. 9 1979, the busi­ness was pre­vi­ously known for con­vert­ing Lin­colns and Cadil­lacs into dual-axel stretch limousines.

Seven years ago, the Rim Lions moved from Hill­yard Street just around the cor­ner to the cur­rent Burling­ton Street site.

Af­ter 39 years, the re­tail di­vi­sion is clos­ing at the end of Novem­ber.

In some ways, the Wheel Lions are re­tir­ing. But in oth­ers, they’re just do­ing things dif­fer­ently, as Amar Sihra ex­plains.

The Rim Lions will con­tinue to of­fer the same se­lec­tion of rims and tires — they cur­rently have over 500 rims in stock — us­ing an on­line plat­form at rim­lions.com. By next year, says Amar, the busi­ness will be equipped to ship prod­ucts di­rectly to con­sumers’ front doors. In­stal­la­tion in­struc­tions will be avail­able on­line for do-it-your­selfers, or cus­tomers can choose from a list of rec­om­mended lo­cal tire shops.

Even with­out a re­tail pres­ence, con­nect­ing with cus­tomers won’t be a prob­lem, Amar in­sists.

“We’re very pre­dom­i­nant on so­cial me­dia, like In­sta­gram,

Face­book, YouTube,” says Amar, the son of busi­ness founder Chico Sihra. “We have mil­lions of YouTube views on our cus­tom cars and tire videos that we do.”

Amar es­ti­mates the Rim Lions videos are get­ting 360,000 views ev­ery month from view­ers around the world.

Video up­dates, in­clud­ing tire re­views, will con­tinue well into the fu­ture.

“We still have the same con­nec­tions with tire com­pa­nies and they still send us the new­est tires

to re­view,” says Amar.

When the shop closes and staff mem­bers have more free time avail­able, Amar and his cousin AJ plan to re­sume their pas­sion for writ­ing and record­ing hip hop mu­sic and pro­duc­ing videos. Chico hopes to pur­sue his in­ter­ests in Bol­ly­wood films. He pre­vi­ously re­leased one such film in In­dia and an­other in Canada.

Amar plans to of­fer a weekly YouTube live broad­cast, where cus­tomers can join the con­ver­sa­tion and ask real-time ques­tions.

Along with boast­ing the largest se­lec­tion of in-stock wheels in Hamil­ton — if not Canada — the Rim Lions are known as the home of the world’s big­gest wheel, a 50-inch wire rim. The busi­ness of­fers cus­tom-made wheels in al­most any colour.

“Ba­si­cally, we can put wheels on any ve­hi­cle, wheels that are ready-made or made from scratch,” says Amar.

Over the years, Amar and the staff have made many friends through the busi­ness, in­clud­ing

NHL play­ers like Zac Ri­naldo and hip hop artist Riff Raff.

Amar and the staff have also taken the TV world by storm with Rim Lions Re­al­ity TV, which has aired on Ca­ble 14, as well as CHCH TV and OLN.

De­spite their plans to close the shop and even­tu­ally sell the prop­erty, Amar says it’s a happy oc­ca­sion for the fam­ily.

“We wanted to fin­ish our ca­reer on top. Ev­ery­body’s healthy and we wanted to fin­ish while we were ahead.”

CATHIE COW­ARD HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Amar Sihr of Hill­yard Rim Lions, in 2014, with a cus­tom 50-inch chrome wheel rim. It’s the largest wheel rim in the world and val­ued at $20,000.

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