1903The Meet1919Crow Burlingame Formed1927K.V. Browne1928First Branch Opens1932Osborn, Crow, and Yantis Co.1939Fletcher Lord Sr.1940Copeland Hughes1943First Retirement Plan1946Company Expansion1950The North 401952Employee Credit Union1955Model Store Designed1956First Pension Plan1958Parts Warehouse Formed1959PWI Joins AWDA1960New Leadership1970Tillman Auto Parts1979The Next Generation1984PWI Prospers1986J.C. Hamilton Co.1994Celebrated 75 Years2000The Alliance Formed2001Car Dealer Parts Formed2018Looking to the Future2019Celebrating 100 Years2019AC Delco2019AC Delco2019AC Delco
IT ALL STARTED WITH TWO FRIENDS
From Local Auto Parts Store
To Industry Leader
READ OUR STORY
Special thanks to Rebecca Spugnardi
I n the spring of 1903, William Robert Crow moved to Little Rock to take a job as a traveling produce salesman. On a Monday morning train to Conway, he met one of his competitors, a fellow named J.G. Burlingame. Salesmen were called “drummers” in those days. They accidentally met several times that week while calling on customers and again at the end of the week on the train ride home. Mr. Burlingame, who was several years older than Bob Crow, invited him to his home for Sunday dinner and to meet Mrs. Burlingame. The following week, on the train out to the territory, Mr. Burlingame suggested Bob leave the local boarding house and move in to the Burlingame’s home. Mr. Crow accepted, living there until he married seven years later. This living arrangement marked the beginning of a friendship that would lead to the creation of the Crow-Burlingame Company and would span 56 years until Mr. Burlingame died.
In the years between the train ride and the formation of the company, Bob Crow worked as a salesman for Karcher Candy while Judge Burlingame was a wholesale grocer. They made extra money by selling cars on the side. At that time, there were no car dealerships. Instead cars were displayed at the National Automotive Show in St Louis where individuals looked at various dealer offerings and then purchased a car they thought would become popular. Mr. Crow was one such investor. Each year he attended the show and returned with a car. If other people liked it, they could order one through Mr. Crow or Mr. Burlingame, who then received commission for the sale.
There was a company in Monroe, LA named Weaks Supply Co. They were primarily a mill and industrial supply house. In 1911, they opened a division called Motor Supply.
Bob and Judge went to St. Louis. They did not come back with an automobile, but they did return with an idea for a company: an accessory business for car dealers. Crow-Burlingame Co. was founded as an Arkansas corporation on April 21, 1919 and opened at 3rd and Cumberland Street. Two friends, formed an automobile accessory company, selling to the states car dealers many of the items which now come as standard equipment. Originally, automobiles were shipped without bumpers, horns, headlights, wheels or “snubbers” (a leather strap that helped cushion the bumps in the road – today we call it “shock absorbers”) or more common accessories. It was the responsibility of the dealer to equip them the way their customers wanted. The plan was simple: from anywhere in the state, dealers could call the number “main 464” and place an order for the parts they needed. Crow-Burlingame Co. took orders by phone and shipped overnight, statewide, by train. The business was an overnight success. Although there were only 119 miles of hardtop road in Arkansas, there were 41,548 cars registered in the US. The writing was on the wall: automobiles were here to stay.
Corporations looked for ways to claim a piece of the aftermarket pie. In 1922, Ford acquired Lincoln, and soon their cars were shipped from the factory with bumpers attached. Then Chrysler began shipping their cars with all of the accessories in place. These innovations made competition stiff between aftermarket suppliers; several closed their doors.
In the earliest years of the company, the US scrambled to adapt to a life without war. Prohibition passed, Jack Dempsey was heavy weight champ, and the Chicago White Socks were accused of throwing the World Series. “How Ya Gonna Keep em Down on the Farm” was the popular song of the day. Warren Harding died and Calvin Coolodge became president.
In 1923, income tax was 4% on individuals and 12.5% for Corporations and they were just too high. Vladimir Lenin died and Joseph Stalin took over Russia. Babe Ruth won the American League batting crown, and “The Four Horsemen” ruled college football at Notre Dame.
In 1924, the FBI was established, our Company grew and changed very quickly; the company moved from 4th and Center to a larger building at 4th and Spring Street. Soon, manufacturers began shipping cars fully equipped, which caused the company to shift its focus to replacement parts and machine shop operations. On December 31, 1924, Weaks Supply sold their Motor Supply division to Mr. W.O. Campbell who was 23 years old for the sum of $47,220.42. This included all of the assets of the business. This was the beginning of Motor Supply Company located on 408 Washington Street in Monroe, LA.
1925 saw the first women, Nellie Tayloe Ross and Miriam Wallace Ferguson, elected as governors in the states of Wyoming and Texas. Red Grange was a big football hero from the university of Illinois, bootlegging was going full force, and a man named John Scopes went on trial for teaching the theory of evolution. NAPA was established.
In 1926 cotton was down to 14 cents a pound and a radio network named NBC was formed.
1927, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean and K.V. Browne joined the company on the Kardex. A thing called television was demonstrated, and Duco lacquer made it possible to order Ford’s “Model T” in a color other than “Japan Black”. The Ford Model “A” was introduced.
The first branch opened in El Dorado, Arkansas in November 1928 when Crow-Burlingame Co. purchased Service Parts Company, an existing store. J. Otto Snyder was its manager. The branch was more like a sub-warehousing facility for the entire south Arkansas-North Louisiana area with an Outside salesman, bookkeepers, three countermen, and a machine shop. Chrysler introduced the DeSoto as its company’s new brand, and Al Smith ran against Herbert Hoover for president. From this point the company grew steadily with 21 store locations at the outbreak of WWII.
In 1929, Bobby Jones won the National Amateur Golf Championship. The stock market crashed and 2,300 banks failed. The Empire State Building was completed at a cost of $54 Million, and Thomas Edison died at 84. Crow-Burlingame opened stores in Pine Bluff and Hot Springs. Even in the depression the company held its own. Then as now, people depended on their cars to get to and from work.
Dimmick Supply Inc. was formed in 1931 by Ira C. Dimmick in Opelousas, LA. He began his career as a clerk for the Haas Hardware Store, little realizing that one day he would own and operate a chain of wholesale businesses dealing in automotive and industrial equipment. Dimmick left Haas’ to join with Frank Daly in the operation of an automotive business and remained with Daly for three years. The small company was housed in a building located across from the Ford Garage. Later it moved to its current location at 131 S. Liberty where it continues to operate under the Bumper to Bumper marketing name. Expansion began over the years to come as the company grew to a total of 13 locations in the southern part of the state. With a mix of wholesale and retail the company sold to a variety of customers including Industrial, Heavy Duty and Automotive accounts.
In 1932, Crow-Burlingame formed a relationship with two other leading regional auto parts companies: The Memphis based Osborn-Abston Company and the Fort Smith based The Automotive Company. Together this trio was called The Osborn, Crow & Yantis Company, or OYC. At that time, it was the largest buying group in the country with 11 stores in the Memphis group, 10 stores in the Little Rock group and 6 stores in the Fort Smith group. The main office was in Memphis where the purchasing negotiations took place. The head of purchasing was “Pop Scates”, and from the formation to its end, he was one of the most influential people in the parts business.
In 1933, Franklin D Roosevelt became the 32nd president of the US. Prohibition was repealed. The Lone Ranger took to the radio waves while Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. CBCo bought the Texarkana, Texas; Marshall, Texas; and Morrilton, Arkansas stores in a package deal.
In 1934, the Dust bowl storms wreaked havoc across the prairie lands and the Okies left for California. John Dillinger was shot, and CBCo opened a store in Camden, Arkansas.
In 1935, Social Security was formed, Will Rogers and Wylie Post died in a plane crash in Alaska. John L Lewis formed the CIO. “Your Hit Parade” was started on the radio. Lum and Abner owned the Jot ‘em Down Store in the fictional Pine Ridge, Arkansas. Despite the severity of the depression, CBCo opened stores in the Arkansas towns of Hope and Smackover.
In 1936, the Robinson-Patman Act became law. The Searcy and Prescott, Arkansas stores were added. That same year Crow-Burlingame became part of The Distributors Institute, which was one of the first industry groups. This organization pioneered the concept of “best practices”. Members shared their operation numbers with each other, and those with the best number in different areas of the business were encouraged to help others improve by sharing what they were doing, i.e. their best practices. In this way, the members of the group improved because they learned from each other. This group lasted until about 1985.
In 1937, Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing”, Joe DiMaggio became the batting king of the American League for the first time, and John D Rockefeller died at 98. The company opened stores in Batesville, and Newport, Arkansas. The CB Reality company was formed and Roman Marecek was hired. Spam was introduced.
By 1938, war jitters were back. Hitler invaded Austria, the “March of Dimes” was formed, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Walt Disney’s first full length movie. The growth of our company required additional space and a move was made to 5th and Arch Street, and our offices were at 520 W Capitol Street. We added stores in Conway and Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Bugs Bunny hits the screen.
In 1939, baseball celebrated its 100th birthday and Hitler invaded Poland. Crow-Burlingame opened a store in Mountain Home which would later in the year be moved to Harrison, Arkansas. There were 6982 automotive wholesale businesses in the country. In August, Fletcher Lord Sr. joined the company. We opened stores in Harrison and McGehee, Arkansas.
1940 was the first full year of the war. Germany marched over Western Europe and in the US, all male citizens under the age of 35 were required to register for the draft. Bob Wills published San Antonio Rose and Gone with the Wind was the blockbuster movie. A guy named Frank Sinatra made his debut, and Crow-Burlingame added a branch in Magnolia, Arkansas. That was also the year that Copeland Hughes joined the company on Kardex. The company had a total of 20 branches.
In 1941, bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Joe DiMaggio set an all-time record of 56 homeruns, and Bing Crosby had a smash hit with “White Christmas”. The United Auto Workers organized Ford. We opened the store in Dewitt, Arkansas.
1942, the war was in full swing. Car production was stopped to support the war effort. Women ran most of our company due to the war, by the time it was over the US had 1,100,000 casualties and had spent $300 billion. We opened the store in Morrilton, Arkansas
In 1943, the Employees Trust Fund was established and serves as the company’s retirement program.
In 1944, CBCO opened a store in Monticello, Arkansas.
August 6, 1945, CBCO opened in Malvern, Arkansas and the A-Bomb fell ending the war.
1946, The Age of Prosperity – the troops started to come back home and CBCo expanded. The company opened the following stores in Arkansas: Heber Springs, Dumas, Benton, England, Asher Avenue, Fordyce, and Nashville. That brought the official store count to 32. That year, we also had our first woman store manager; Winnie Franks, managed the Dumas store while her husband, Ickey, was the outside salesman.
In 1947, the American Legion parade marched for twelve hours down 5th avenue in New York City. Henry Ford died at 83 and 58,000 people filled Yankee Stadium to honor the “King of Swat”. CBCo opened a store in Crossett, Arkansas, West Monroe, Springhill, and Ruston, Louisiana.
In 1948, Babe Ruth died, the Marshall Plan was put into effect, and NASCAR was formed. Crow-Burlingame added a store in Warren, Arkansas.
In 1949, Harry S Truman started his second term. His was the first inauguration shown on television. Joe Lewis retired as the undefeated heavy weight champion of the world, and Gene Autry sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the radio. Don Mahurin was hired in Dumas.
1950, Crow-Burlingame brought the North Little Rock store into the fold and added 10,000 feet warehouse addition and a basement that became the shipping floor. It was lovingly dubbed “the north 40”.
In 1952, the Truman’s moved back into the remodeled White House. Crow-Burlingame formed the Employee Credit Union and Jim Buchanan and Louis Segalla came to work.
1953, the White House welcomed President Dwight D Eisenhower, its first republican tenant in 20 years. Joseph Stalin died, Queen Elizabeth was crowned, and two-platoon football was voted out of college football. Radial tires were introduced.
In 1954, Chevrolet introduced the Small Block V8. Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson merged and formed American Motors.
In 1955, the main store was moved from the front of the warehouse to a new location just two blocks away at 7th and Arch Street. The 7th branch was the first company “model” store and set a pattern which was used for many years. Davy Crockett was the hit movie, song, and television show. Arkansas had 6907 miles of hardtop roads. Big-4 Auto Parts Company was purchased as an affiliated company, with Crow-Burlingame owning 65% of the stock. Big-4 distributed the MoPar parts line for Chrysler.
During the prosperous years after the war, the company expanded quickly with 19 stores opened in one year. During this period, many of our benefit plans were developed including the company funded pension plan.
1956, Grace Kelly became the Princess of Monaco, the interstate highway system was approved in congress, the “Star of Arkansas” diamond was found near Murfreesboro, and Don Larson bitched the first perfect game in a world series. RCA had decided to give an unknown named Elvis a record deal. His first song under that label was “Heart Break Hotel”. The Company built new buildings for its stores in Newport, Conway, and Pine Bluff. The branch at the Bridgehead in North Little Rock was opened.
1957, Little Rock received unwanted national attention with its school integration problems. Mr. W.O. Campbell’s son Guy Campbell Sr. had been running Motor Supply Company died at the age of 56. His son Guy Jr. was only 16 years of age, so his uncle Claude Harrison, was asked to look after the business until Guy Jr. could complete his education. With Mr. Harrison’s distant supervision, Mr. Pete Mulhearn was the day to day manager of the business. And over the years, the company grew into a large direct jobber buying from Cotton States until they helped form Universal Warehouse located in Memphis, TN.
Arkansas governor Orville Faubus closed the Little Rock Public high schools. The Edsel hit the streets. Elvis went into the Army and The Nautilus sailed under the North Pole. Big-4 was dissolved. The Yantis portion of OCY lost a legal battle with the Federal Trade commission. This break up caused a surge in auto parts firms called “Warehouse Distributors”. Changing times and new government regulations required the company to split into two companies in 1958. Crow-Burlingame Co. continued to operate stores and Parts Warehouse was formed to handle warehouse distributions. In Memphis, Ozvborn-Abston spun off Parts Inc. and in Fort Smith The Automotive formed Motive Parts Warehouse. At that time, the companies began to truly solicit business from independent jobbers in the area making competition fierce. Parts Warehouse Commenced business January 1, with 35,000 square feet of warehouse space in a multi-level building in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. K.V. Browne was the first served as the first president of PWI. We were a relatively new business and the competition was fierce. PWI steadily worked the territory, and a year or two later, added another 36,000 square feet of warehouse space. Over the years, mezzanines were also added.
In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state. Buddy Holly dies in Clear Lake, Iowa and Charles Van Doren admitted to cheating on TV Game Shows. The company opened stores in Stamps, Arkansas and New Boston, Texas. Stores were opened in Homer, Louisiana; Atlanta, Texas; Stamps, Arkansas. After these additions, the store count was up to 45. Ray Stewart was hired. PWI became a member of the AWDA, and Mr. J.G. “Judge” died in his sleep. In the spring of 1959, Motor Supply Co. helped to open and service its first independent jobber, Whitten Motor Supply, located in Oak Grove, LA.
1960, JFK defeated Richard Nixon. Sit-ins were staged at Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Gary Powers was shot over the Soviet Union in a U2 spy plane. Chubby Checkers sang “The Twist”.
1961, JFK and Russian Premiere Nikita Khrushchev brought the world to the edge of a nuclear war with the Bay of the Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
1962, Kennedy moved troops into the Republic of Vietnam. Wal-Mart opened. Two wise-guys who pulled parts for the bus desk decided to wear roller skates to work the warehouse. John Glenn orbited the Earth 3 times and James Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss. Martin Luther King marched on Washington and delivered his “I have a Dream” speech. President Diem was assassinated in South Vietnam. Store was opened in Dequeen, Arkansas
1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as President. At home he waged war on poverty and abroad he continued the war in Southeast Asia. In the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain scored 4,029 points. Allen Rowe and Charlie Wise came to work for CBCo. Bob Raff gave up coaching and joined PWI as Sales Manager. Guy Campbell, Jr graduated from LSU at the age of 22. He was quite the entrepreneur and very aggressive. He began running the business instead of his uncle, Mr. Harrison. At that time Motor Supply Company had grown into a large volume jobber buying some lines directly from vendors such as Champion Spark Plugs. Earl Colvin was hired to be Pete Mulhearn’s understudy and the logical person to replace him upon time.
In 1964, the Beatles arrived on the scene singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The Arkansas Razorbacks won a national football championship by defeating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. Lyndon Johnson was elected in a landslide. Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston and claimed the heavy duty weight champ title. The Mustang was introduced. William Robert Crow died at 84 and Mr James died suddenly, so K.V. Browne went back to CBCo and Copeland Hughes then became president of PWI. According to Hughes, starting out was rough. Motor Supply Company opened its first branch store at 308 Cryer St. in West Monroe, LA. This was the beginning of growth for them, and the market began to change. Large Jobbers buying direct started giving way to pure 3 step distribution. Guy Jr decided to relocate this segment of the business to a separate location.
1965, Malcom X was assassinated, the Rolling Stones sang “Satisfaction”, and Doctor Zhivago played in theaters. Chrysler discontinued their relationship with companies like Big-4. As a result, investors from around the country filed suit. The investors won and Chrysler took back the entire inventory. In the end, Chrysler paid the investors something for the furniture and fixtures, as well as paying them a small settlement. Our Lake Village, Arkansas store was opened. Construction began on what would become Motor Supply Warehouse.
1966, there were 385,000 troops in Vietnam. The investors of Big-4 used the settlement money from Chrysler to buy Tillman Auto Parts, a redistributing jobber in Shreveport, Louisiana. Jerry Kossover graduated from college and moved to Shreveport to run the store. This made us a multi-state chain. Bobby Lord came to work for the company. Motor Supply Warehouse opened for business in Feb, with a new 40,000 square foot warehouse for local 3 step distribution.
1967, Green Bay won the first Super bowl, the Thurgood Marshall became the first black Supreme Court Justice. The Beach boys sang “Good Vibrations,” and Fletcher Lord Jr. joined the company. Guy Jr. developed a 50/50 store concept. This was a way to open new distribution in surrounding markets. He had the resources to open stores but needed partners with local awareness, parts knowledge and the desire for a future in the auto parts business. What better way to motivate someone than to offer them a business partnership and 50% ownership of the store? Local men and women with auto parts knowledge usually had no money to invest. Their knowledge had great value and no one appreciated this more than Guy Jr. He would form a corporation where the 50% owner would share equally in the profits of the business. If they were unable to invest their share of the capitalization, Guy Jr. would let them pay it back to the corporation using their share of the annual profits. This could take years; however he was selling auto parts in a new market. By the way, he held a 2 to 1 voting power.
1968, MLK was shot in Memphis, Later that summer Robert Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California presidential primary. Flower power, peace movement, marijuana, and Woodstock were “happening”. Peter, Paul and Mary sang “If I had a Hammer”. The Tet Offensive began, Apollo 8 orbited the moon. The company started a remodeling project and added a second floor to house the PWI operations. Guy Jr was still committed to growing Motor Supply Warehouse and realized the warehouse would only be as strong as the jobber base it served. The Company built and opened a 24,000 square foot jobber store located at 2400 Newcombe St, in Monroe, LA. For its time, it was a state of the art operation.
In 1969, PWI move into the Springfield, Missouri area with the purchase of Empire Automotive Distributors. Empire was a small warehouse, with 16,000 square feet of warehouse space. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and Sesame Street was shown on public tv. Mike Spence joined the company.
1970, four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State. Doonesbury was launched. The company purchased another redistributor, Tillman Auto Parts, Shreveport, LA. Throughout the years, business was usual with Guy Jr as owner and Pete Mulhearn running the operations until his retirement. Ray Mohler was hired as a warehouse salesman.
In 1971, Charles Manson was convicted in the Sharon Tate Killings, the Pentagon Papers were released, and Nixon increased the bombing of North Vietnam. Don McLean sang “American Pie” and
In 1972, the Dow broke 1,000 for the first time, the Equal VISION Rights Amendment was passed, and the EPA was formed. Bill Schlatterer gave up flipping burgers to drive a delivery truck while finishing college.
In 1973, Secretariat won the Triple Crown, OPEC banned oil imports to the United States. Five men were arrested during a break-in at the Watergate apartments. The company was contacted by Jim Milsap, an owner from Springfield, Missouri, who asked if we had an interest in purchasing his company. He had just learned that he was ill and needed to sell. Motor Supply Warehouse, added a 30,000 square foot expansion and 25,000 sq ft mezzanine.
In 1974, Hank Aaron hit 715 home runs and broke Babe Ruth’s all-time record. Nixon resigned and Jack Bennie died. Rapides Auto Supply, in Alexandria, Louisiana was opened.
Around 1975, 555 Inc. sold the second largest CARQUEST Company in the country to the Strauss Frank Company in San Antonio, Texas. Since PWI’s formation in the late 50’s, 555 had been its largest competitor. Its history was very much like ours with company owned stores, except that it had more independent jobber business than PWI.
In the late seventies, PWI began looking for a one-level facility which could be automated.
1976, the country celebrated its 200th birthday. The company opened a store in Mena, Arkansas. Tom Singleton came to work for Crow-Burlingame as the manager of the Benton, Arkansas Store.
1977, Star Wars was in every theater and “Hotel California” was a hit for The Eagles. Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, and Elvis died. The Company opened its third store in the Little Rock Market on Cantrell Road in West Little Rock. The deal struck with Jim Milsap and led to the purchase of Empire Automotive Distributors, The Herman Brownlow Company, and the Haulsm Company. It was the beginning of the Southern Missouri market with stores in Sedalia, Rolla, and Springfield, MO. Motor Supply Warehouse added 10,000 sq ft making it a total of 105,000.
1978, Kenny Payne joined PWI. Ray Mohler was promoted to sales manager for Motor Supply Warehouse.
1979, the Federal Government bailed out Chrysler, we had Three Mile Island and the hostages were taken in Tehran.
Major changes took place in 1980 as the company purchased its largest independent competitor, 555 Inc. Straus Frank contacted us and asked if we would be interested in 555. The 555’s store management team kept most of their stores for the next several years and later sold them as well. The large main store on W 8th street was sold with the warehouse company and soon became 8th Street Heavy Duty, our first heavy duty warehouse/store. Many of the key 555 people became an important part of the newly enlarged company. Most of the jobber sales people and several members of the purchasing team joined the company at that time. Two key players were Jennifer Rainwater and Martha Harper. Mark Martin also came from this acquisition. On Dec 3, 1980, Guy Jr., at the age of 38, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. His Will identified a board of directors to look after his trust. The board immediately named Earl Colvin as president of the company reporting directly to them.
On August 31, 1981, PWI Purchased the Straus-Frank Co. of Arkansas business, inventory and warehouse building. This purchase doubled the size of PWI distribution to independent jobbers. This same acquisition gave the company an additional warehouse operation in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This became the third branch of PWI. There was a store operation on the front of the warehouse and a paint store in Fort Smith that added to the company store count. It also extended our service into the previous territory of our old partners “The Automotive”. As part of the purchase agreement, we were asked to stay in CARQUEST for at least one year to see if we liked it. After the required year, we resigned.
In 1981, as charter members, Motor Supply Warehouse, Taylor Parts in Andalusia, AL and the Big 4 in Fort Worth, TX formed All Pro Auto Parts. Motor Supply Warehouse operated under this identity until 1984.
A fairly new building, this warehouse contained over 104,000 square feet on the ground with approximately 40,000 square feet on bin and rack supported mezzanine structures. This warehouse is located on East Roosevelt Road in Little Rock, just five minutes from the airport and only a few minutes from a freeway system that leads in all directions from the city.
The increased volume of the combined operations turned shipping and receiving into mass confusion. Bob Raff, now the president of PWI, contacted American Handing Equipment Company to completely automate the new warehouse. PWI believes we had one of the most efficient warehouses in the country.
Parts Warehouse moved from the General offices on capitol to the building on Roosevelt and Reagan was shot by John Hinkley. Sandra Day O’Conner was the first woman to join in the Supreme Court.
In 1982, we bought a store in Monett, Missouri.
In 1983, Crow-Burlingame acquired the W. Kearney Street store in Springfield, Missouri and opened another in Ava, Missouri as well.
In 1984, Reagan was re-elected and a thing called a CD hit the market. Standard Motor products of Tulsa contacted the company. It was an old-line small warehouse with a group of stores, but at the time seemed too small to go that far from our home in Little Rock. That year, the company bought two more stores in Missouri: one on South Campbell Street in Springfield and one at Lakeview in Branson. Copeland Hughes retired as president of PWI. A Company name A I from Kuwait approached Motor Supply Warehouse. The Guy Campbell Jr Trust saw this as an opportunity to diversify and make the trust more liquid. The Board charged Earl Colvin to let it be known that they would consider selling the warehouse and its company stores. In August, American Parts System (APS) purchased Motor Supply Warehouse and its company stores. The warehouse became known as APS and the stores operated at Big A Auto Parts. APS Monroe always operated as one of the top 5 distribution centers in sales and operations. Business flourished and the jobber base grew.
In 1985, K.V. Browne died.
In 1986, The Challenger exploded. In a very different way, so did Crow-Burlingame. J.C. Hamilton Company from Tulsa, Oklahoma contacted us. This was another warehouse company. They had no company owned stores, but they did have a very nice, new warehouse facility and a jobber customer base. CBCo purchased both warehouse companies and Standard Motor Product’s fourteen stores. We moved into the new, larger warehouse of J.C Hamilton Company. At that time, Fort Smith warehouse merged into the larger facility that would now serve all of Oklahoma, Northwest Arkansas and Western Arkansas customers and stores. Tulsa, Glenpool, Chandler, Cushing, Vinita, Nowata, Bristow, Skiatook, and Stroud, Oklahoma became part of the company family of stores. Mark Martin moved to Tulsa as DC Manager. The company also bought Northwest Arkansas Parts Company and The Parts Store, both located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Stout-Condra store was purchased in Springdale and the company opened a series of Muffler shops called “Hush”. Several were opened, but they were either sold or closed. The West Hot Springs, Arkansas store was opened. Earl Colvin was promoted and transferred to the APS corporate office in Houston, TX. Ray Mohler was named General Manager of the Monroe DC location and eventually became a Senior Regional Manager.
In 1987, The Dow closed about 2000. Oliver North testified in front of Congress about the Iran-Contra affair. The Dow lost 508 points in one day and Wall Street crashed. Auto Shack became Auto Zone. The Store in Mountain View, Arkansas was purchased. We joined the Auto Value Group as an associate member with two other companies: Mid-America from Fort Smith, Arkansas and Republic Automotive of Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1988, George W Bush was elected President of the United States. The last 555 store was sold to the company and moved to its present location in West Little Rock, Arkansas. This sale marked the end of 555 Inc. name. The Chicot store was opened, and the Jacksonville, Arkansas store was purchased. The Stout-Condra store changed to a company store, while the North West Auto Parts Store closed in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Jake Maggs was transferred from the APS Atlanta DC to APS Monroe as the Sales Manager. In the spring, APS decided to close their distribution center in Houston, TX. APS Monroe was charged with salvaging that jobber base and servicing it out of Monroe. The challenge was accepted and a large percentage of the jobbers were retained. This enlarged the Monroe footprint and it would now deliver just over 50 miles south and west of Houston, TX.
In 1989, The Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 10.8 Million gallons of oil along Prince William Sound, Pete Rose was banned from baseball, and Lucille Ball died. Don Mahurin retired from PWI. Stores were opened in North Little Rock, Little Rock, and Mountain Home, Arkansas
In 1990, US troops drove Iraq out of Kuwait in operation Desert Storm. CBCo added and closed stores as the opportunity or need arose. A second store in Monroe, Louisiana opened. Replacement Parts, Inc. was formed as a holding company to put the company back together as it had been in the early years. Crow-Burlingame Co., Parts Warehouse, Inc. and all of the small corporations are owned by RPI. The ESOP, Employee Stock Ownership Plan, was starting during this time and at that time our employees own 21% of the total company.
In 1991, the Dow broke 3000. Bob Raff became Chairman of AWDA. Auto Parts and Supply of Arkadelphia, Arkansas merged into the company’s store in town, and the same thing was done in Harrison, Arkansas later that year. Both stores had been long-standing customers of PWI. The independent jobber became the company store manager in Arkadelphia and in Harrison the inside manager. The Marshall, Arkansas store was purchased. The store in Hampton was opened, and Cabot, Jacksonville, and Lonoke were purchased.
Changing technology and the need for efficiency opened the door to computer revolution. By 1992, all stores had been computerized with JCON but the update process is never ending. Johnny Carson retired and Bill Clinton became 42nd President. A store in Willow Springs, Missouri was opened and a store in Sheridan, Arkansas and Danville, Arkansas was purchased.
In April 1993, the Little Rock Warehouse was expanded, by adding a mezzanine, to 150,000 square feet of floor space to take care of our customer’s needs. In November, PWI Purchased two companies in Tulsa Oklahoma: Standard Parts and J.C. Hamilton building. PWI quickly combined all the Oklahoma operations into the 80,000 square foot J C Hamilton building. This building was completely remodeled and modernized, like the Little Rock Operation. In October, the company operations included 86 store operations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The warehouse has operations in Little Rock, Arkansas; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Springfield, Missouri; and Tulsa Oklahoma. It competes with national companies such as Napa, Parts Plus, Big A, CARQUEST and many locally owned independent jobbers. Vincent Foster was found dead in Washington D.C. Crow-Burlingame bought a CARQUEST store in West Plains, Missouri and another store in Camdenton, Ozark, Missouri and Siloam Springs, Arkansas. We also bought out Three Brothers which owned stores in Joplin, Lamar, and Neosho, Missouri. Bob Raff received the industry’s highest award: Automotive Leader of the Year by AWDA. In addition to traditional auto parts, the company is also active in the paint and body, heavy duty truck parts, and the tool and equipment segments of the aftermarket.
In June of 1994, our company celebrated 75 years of service. Recognized nationally as one of the largest, best managed, privately owned parts store operations in the country, we were confident the future would be as bright as our long and colorful past. A Strike by the professional baseball players cancelled the World Series. Forrest Gump played in theaters. Kenneth Star was named independent counsel for the “Whitewater” investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s land deals.
Crow-Burlingame bought the Auto Value store in Mansfield, Missouri. Mr. John Lowe sold his 21 store chain to us and became a board member and stockholder of RPI. His stores began on the far end of our southwest territory, extended west into Tyler, Texas market and actually competed with several of our existing stores. Two of his stores were merged, and the remaining 19 stores were added to the store list. These stores were: Stateline and Robinson Road stores in Texarkana; New Boston and Hope, which merged with existing stores; Dekalb, Clarksville, Naples, two Tyler stores, Maud, Lindale, Van, and Grand Saline, Texas.
Broken Bow and Idabel, Oklahoma were added as branches, as well as Waldo, Arkansas. Since that time, some of the smaller stores have been closed. In April, Brian Schneider transferred from the APS St. Louis Dc to APS Monroe as the Operations Manager.
In June 1995, a truck bomb blew up in the Federal office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and killed 168 people. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty and the 55-mile per hour speed limit was repealed. The company left Auto Value and along with Republic Automotive, joined Bumper to Bumper. Several month’s later, All Pro group merged with BTB. Crow-Burlingame bought a NAPA on Confederate and promptly opened our own store. We also opened a DuPont Car Color store in South Little Rock.
We also renovated the Safeway store to only have the roof collapse a year later. PWI moved the Springfield warehouse into a 50,000 square foot building, and completely modernized it like the other locations. PWI was serving 250 Jobber stores in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas through our three warehouse facilities. One of PWI’s goals for was to have 200 jobbers flying the Bumper to Bumper colors. PWI is proud to be associated with Bumper to Bumper and AMA. It helps make a great winning combination. Bartlesville, OK and Broken Bow, OK stores were opened.
Fletcher Lord Sr. died at 87
Bob Raff, president and CEO, stated “Parts Warehouse, Inc. takes pride in its customers and employees – people helping people become successful.”
1996, Clinton was re-elected. Auto Color in Fort Smith was opened. APS decided to close its location in Dallas, TX, and the Monroe location was charged with salvaging the Dallas customer base. Again, the team stepped up and retained several jobbers. The footprint got even bigger, they were now serving jobbers located up to a 100 miles south, west and north of Dallas on a nightly basis. Everyone was going through a learning curve and growing with the company. APS was well known and respected in the automotive industry. In addition to 3 step distribution, they developed 2 step (warehouse to installer) in large metropolitan markets.
These operations were called ISW (Installer Service Warehouse). The concept was so successful they expanded an adapted version for the independent jobbers. This was known as Installer Express. The ISW Division was growing so fast it became difficult to manage and the growth opportunities began to overload the infrastructure. Everyone seemed to recognize that the ISW bubble was about to burst. That is except top management who was aggressively feeding the beast.
1997, Crow-Burlingame’s General Offices were moved into the PWI building on Roosevelt and the Capitol Avenue building was put on the market. APS ventured into yet another questionable growth opportunity by acquiring 14 Parts, Inc. (Parts Plus) DC’s. The warehouse in Jackson, MS was one of several DC’s APS decided to close. The jobbers serviced out of Jackson would now be changed over to Big A and serviced out of Monroe, LA. By years end all of the jobbers were changed over with new signage on display. Rumors of APS cash flow problems began to circulate throughout the industry.
In 1998, Mark McGwire hit 62 home runs and Viagra was introduced. APS announced bankruptcy in February. The jobber base became fragmented. The Parts Plus locations that just changed over felt betrayed and the competition was reacting like sharks smelling blood. Earl Colvin moved from Houston to join our company and Bob Raff retired as president of PWI. APS is now under bankruptcy control and the administrators are beginning to sell of segments of the company.
The Monroe DC had helped to develop one of its jobbers, Randy Rankin, into a sizeable multiple store operation and he became an obvious candidate to purchase additional APS assets. In October, Rankin acquired the Monroe Dc and 24 company stores from APS holdings. The new DC identity was Allied Distribution and they became an Alliance member. The jobbers would be identified as Auto Value. Simultaneously with all of this confusion, a Parts Plus DC re-opened in Jackson, MS. Those same sharks that were already smelling blood became a feeding frenzy. The jobbers who were Parts Plus a year ago and recently changed over to Big A went back to the new Parts Plus warehouse like rats leaving a sinking ship. Convincing them to stay and become and Auto Value Jobber was impossible.
In 1999, the president of All/Pro resigned and the group hired Bob Raff, to run the group. The focus quickly became on merging the group with the larger group: Auto Value. Hugo, OK and Arcadia, LA opened. The Monroe DC was on a downhill slide. It was like a battleship adrift with no fuel or ammunition. The jobber bas, DC inventory and fill rate were at an all-time low. Rankin began showing signs of cash flow problems and liquidation appeared to be inevitable.
In 2000, there was fear over Y2K. Tiger Woods won 4 major events. George W Bush’s election over Al Gore was determined by Florida’s hanging chad. The Auto Value group became the Automotive Aftermarket Alliance. Richard Morgan, who had been president of Auto Value, became the president of the new group. That same year, the company was contacted by ACDelco to see if we had any interest in purchasing a business in Monroe, LA that sold ACDelco parts. The company was purchased but didn’t fit into our business plan and was later closed. Rankin Automotive contacted us regarding the interest in purchasing part of their company that was located in the general area of Monroe, LA. It included a warehouse operation and 24 stores.
We were very interested in looking at that business because we had already tried 3 times to buy it. In addition, the company had been in discussion with Ken Peterson at Motor Supply Co. in Uncertain, TX for several years regarding a purchase/merger with their operation. They also operated a warehouse and 14 stores in the same general market area, so the idea of combining the two operations looked very attractive.
A deal was made to merge the Uncertain, TX Company into RPI and then purchase the Rankin assets. New store growth includes: North Little Rock, AR; Fort Smith, AR; 2 in Monroe, LA; West Monroe, LA; Bastrop, LA; Alexandria, LA; Pineville, LA; Ball, LA; Greenville, MS; Natchez, MS; Meridian, MS; Jonesboro, AR; Greenbrier, AR; and Springfield, MO. Continuing its growth, in October 2000 the Company purchased parts of the Rankin Automotive Group and added twenty-one stores located in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a warehouse distribution center in Monroe, LA.
In 2001, two planes hit the World Trade Center and one hit the Pentagon. 2,800 people were killed. ACDelco invited the company to join an exclusive group of ACDelco distributors called a Dedicated Distribution Group (DDG) in which members have a somewhat exclusive opportunity to sell the ACDelco brand. We accepted and bought two outlets in our market area, which only sold car dealers. This added the Motorcraft line and was the beginning of a new venture called “Car Dealer Parts”. During the year, the company operated the two warehouses while the Monroe facility was enlarged to support both operations by adding an additional 65,000 sq ft.
At the end of the year, the two warehouses were combined and Uncertain was closed. This was a $1.5M expense and was completed in Nov. Ray Mohler who was running Monroe, took over the combined locations. The newly remodeled and expanded DC was able to attract many new independent jobbers. That first year alone, the independent volume tripled. Ken Peterson became a large stockholder and board member.
Along the same time as the construction in Monroe, the Federal Government purchased the 520 W Capitol building that the company had owned since 1938. The money was used to pay for the Monroe Warehouse expansion. During this time we looked at the market placement of our locations. With so much growth, several of the new stores were right down the street from existing stores. We consolidated and the better of the two survived. Now stores were located in the Jackson, MS area, through the lower portions of LA, and they extended all the way to the Gulf Coast. Additional stores operations: two locations in Shreveport, LA; Oakdale, LA; Idabel, OK; two locations in Baton Rouge, LA; Lafayette, LA; Gonzales, LA, Kilgore, TX; Minden, LA, and Bossier City, LA. In
January 2001, we added thirteen more stores in Louisiana and Texas and a warehouse distribution center through a merger with Motor Supply Warehouse, located in Uncertain, TX. This warehouse was in operation for over 50 years and through the years had acquired various branch stores. We made a major addition to the Monroe distribution center in 2001 and transferred the warehouse inventory and service from Uncertain, TX to the Monroe, LA location.
2002, Opened a store in Haughton, LA. PWI Monroe added TPW (the paperless warehouse) in April at an expense of $340k. The employees are totally on board and committed. The facility is boasting 170k sq ft, state of the art, totally paperless operation, with enough inventory to support a high percentage line fill. The MSW-Uncertain jobber base is now fully acclimated to Bumper to Bumper and being serviced out of PWI-Monroe.
It is worth noting that the Parts Plus Jobbers who migrated back to the new Parts Plus Warehouse in Jackson, MS began to gradually change over to BTB family. Eventually, every one of them came back and the new Parts Plus warehouse in Jackson closed its doors. RPI has now positioned itself to be a dominate force in the Southern Region. In June, RPI also purchased the warehouse inventory of Republic Automotive, located in Crawley, LA. Their warehouse operation was closed and they retained ownership of their 6 Company stores. PWI changed these stores over to Bumper to Bumper independents.
In 2003, Enron declared bankruptcy. We bought a CARQUEST store in Natchitoches, LA and changed it to an ACDelco store. In August, we bought another store in Lafayette, LA and in September opened a Car Color Store in Alexandria, LA. We also opened a Car Color in Conway, AR and a branch in Malvern, AR. The All Pro name was dropped and Auto Value/BTB became the 3rd largest group in the US along with NAPA and CARQUEST.
During 2003-2005, additional CBCO stores and a CDP location were purchased in South Louisiana, East Texas, and Tulsa, OK from four companies – Dimmick Auto Supply, Car Care, and Johnson Industries (a Car Dealer Parts operation in Tulsa, OK). Several individual CBCO store locations were also acquired during these years, a number of our existing stores moved to newly constructed or remodeled locations, and a new CDP location was established in Little Rock, making a total of four for the Company (Monroe and Lafayette, LA, and Tulsa, OK are the other three).
2004, the DOW was above 10,000. The company purchased Dimmick Supply Company in Lake Charles, LA. Dimmick has a warehouse and 10 stores along I-10. The warehouse merged into the Monroe DC and the stores were supplied from there as well. 100 Employees joined our family in this acquisition. In May, the company purchased two stores owned by Republic Automotive. The owners were customers of PWI and wanted to downsize before retirement. The company also purchased another car dealer provider in Tulsa, OK from Johnson Industries of Atlanta. The Car Dealer operation was named CDP or Car Dealer Parts. New stores in Clarksville, AR; three locations in Lafayette, LA; two locations in New Iberia, LA; Pearl, MS; Jennings, LA; Crowley, LA; Opelousas, LA; Port Barre, LA; Sulphur, LA; Westlake, LA.
In 2005, Roger Farris, the owner or a Lake Charles, LA based company called “Car Care” wanted to sell. They sold mostly ACDelco and Motorcraft products and was a direct competitor for the Dimmick group we just bought. Mr. Farris was ready to get out and we soon owned 13 more stores along I-10. Many of his stores were right down the street from our and we consolidated the stores into each other. Those not merged were: Texarkana, TX; Lake Charles, LA; Orange TX; Beaumont, TX; and Nederland, TX. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit the I-10 corridor. They wiped out much of New Orleans, and damaged 62 of our stores. We rebuilt and moved on. Additional new stores include: North Little Rock, AR; Brinkley, AR; Along with everyone else on the Gulf coast, it was time to rise up and meet the challenge.
It wasn’t easy, but the RPI, CBCo, PWI, and BTB’s hard working and positive attitude went into action. As best they could, it was business as usual. To say as usual was a stretch but the intent was forefront with every employee.
In 2006, In Feb, PWI Monroe added a mezzanine over zone 13 creating zone 33. No one was holding back. They were preparing for future growth. Shelving throughout the entire stockroom was bar coded, which would accommodate the anticipated TPW put away process. In April, TPW put away was activated, now everything that entered or left the building could be scanned, thus becoming a paperless warehouse. The Cliff Wood Family sold Auto Parts and Supply to the company with Cliff Wood remaining to run the combined locations. The $5 million parts store was the largest auto parts supplier in Tulsa, OK.
Copeland Hughes died.
Wilburton, OK; El Dorado, AR; Pine Bluff, AR; were added as well.
In early 2006, we established a fifth CDP in Springfield, MO.
In May of 2006, the Cliff Wood family sold Auto Parts and Supply to the company, and Cliff Wood stayed with us to run the combined operations. The $5 million dollar parts store was the largest auto parts supplier in Tulsa. The business remained freestanding until it was merged into the newly remodeled Tulsa warehouse operation in January 2008
In 2007, a severe economic downturn began for the US. The Springfield DC was merged into the newly renovated Tulsa DC and was turned into a hub store operations for the stores in the Springfield, MO market. Hardy, AR; Hot Springs, AR; Hot Springs, AR; Jonesboro, LA; Farmerville, LA; ADA, OK;
In 2008, moved the newly acquired Auto Parts and Supply store into the renovated Tulsa DC. In November, the US elected its first African-American President, Barack Obama. A Store was opened in Vidalia, LA. Hurricane Gustav and Ike came along in September, the company store in Nederland, TX lost a roof and was replaced. In October, the Herzog Warehouse in New Orleans LA was closing and RPI purchases the ACD/Motorcraft inventory. The Herzog company owned store in Baton Rouge, LA was also purchased and converted to a CBCo store. This opened another opportunity in western AL. The Monroe sales team managed to change over 6 stores and establish BTB in AL. Herzog was the primary supplier of another 8 stores in and around New Orleans, but we converted them to BTB also.
In 2009, Metairie, LA; Kenner, LA; stores were opened. In 2009, the company purchased the assets of the Herzog Company in New Orleans which consisted of product and exclusive AC Delco territories in Southern Mississippi.
In 2010, it was time to update the stores computer systems again, we began to migrate to the CW systems. This process took us a little over a year with over 150 computers updated in our company stores. For the first time, all stores are on the same platform, independent jobbers and company owned. This will allow for us to better serve our customer base. In March, a 30,000 sq ft building next door to PWI Monroe became available. The distance between the two facilities was only 50 feet, with the growth we were experiencing space was a premium. We purchased the building and built a tunnel between the two buildings. Now the total sq footage was 205k.
In 2011, stores were opened in Hattiesburg, and Jackson, MS; and Forrest City, AR. Moving further north in Mississippi, the company also added Specialized Supply / Ryan Supply locations in Jackson, MS. and Hattiesburg, MS in 2011.
In 2012, A PWI customer was ready to retire and offered to sell, Hammons’ Auto Parts. This store became a company store in Fort Smith, AR. We also added a store in Plaquemine, LA. In August, Hurricane Issac came with minimal damage but a major hindrance of loss of business.
In 2013, During 2013 and 2014, Independent store volume expanded as we partnered with local business owners to convert 4 CarQuest, 4 Uni-Select and 3 NAPA stores to independently owned Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Stores. During that period, competitor stores were also bought and/or merged with company stores in Greeneville, MS, Rogers, AR, and Mena, AR.
In 2014, another opportunity arose where we could purchase a group of stores in Missouri. MO stores were added in Concordia, Booneville, Higginsville, Sweet Springs, Lexington, and Warsaw. Along with a store in Rogers, AR.
In 2015, after 30 years on the same computer system running the RPI/PWI/CDP operations, we embarked on a complete computer upgrade project. This would affect every aspect of our business and take 2 years to complete. Stores in Aurora, Pineville, Summersville, Mo and Paris, Clinton, Bentonville, AR were added to the store list.
In 2016, We saw the conversion of our financials to Microsoft Great Plains application. Our company grew with adding 2 independent customers that decided to become company owned store in Miami, OK and Joplin, Mo. Later in the year we switched over 3 more Carquest jobbers and picked up 2 independent store in the state of Alabama.
In 2017, saw the end of the VISION computer installation process. While it was a hard journey and a $1.5M expense, we are already seeing the benefits and efficiencies with only room to improve moving forward. Stores were opened in Sapulpa, OK and a green-field stores in Mobile, AL and Ridgeland, MS; this is a different approach than the usual growth of our company. We also opened a new CDP location in Mobile, AL. Later on in the year, we gained 4 more independent jobbers and a company a store in Jonesboro, AR. In Sept, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas area causing major flooding and damage around Houston.
We can say that 2018 was the year of Vision, which was a warehouse and financial systems conversion. The company is investing heavily in technical infrastructure to support growth in both traditional and web enhanced sales activities. This was a major endeavor resulting in the need to adapt and/or change significant processes and business practices. We anticipate full optimization by mid-2019 and look forward to the projected benefits with inventory control, shelf accuracy, and financial reporting.
April 2019, we are celebrating 100 years!
Some of the Key people in the early years were:
- T.L. James, General Manager – Mr. James was a former bank president, who joined the company because of bank failures during the depression.
- K.V. Brown, Head Purchasing Agent – Mr Browne was later made the first president of PWI. He became General Manager of Crow-Burlingame at the death of Mr James and President at Mr. Crow’s death.
- Gene Smith – Mr. Smith was the company’s sales manager for many of its formative years. He was nationally known for his aggressive sales programs and new approaches to developing business.
- E.F. Lord Sr., District Manager – Mr. Lord was responsible for the purchase, design, construction or lease of the branch store buildings. He was promoted to Vice President, the President at Mr. Browne’s retirement and later become Chairman of the Board.
- Copeland Hughes, Assistant Purchasing Agent – Mr. Hughes served as an assistant to Mr. Browne and became President of PWI when Mr. Brown returned to Crow-Burlingame Co. Mr. Hughes served as president until his retirement and guided the warehouse to become one of the outstanding warehouse distributor companies in the nation.