NAPA to join Alley Auto at new D Street location
By Jack Kintner
If things seem a little disjointed at Blaine’s NAPA auto parts store on Peace Portal, just be patient.
When the auto parts store moves from downtown to D Street into the east end of Alley Auto’s new auto repair building by mid-month, Blaine will have a state of the art garage and a fully equipped auto parts store under one roof, offering customers a combination of small-town personal service along with an inventory as good as any serious auto parts store in the county.
Alley Auto itself will expand into a six-bay shop with room for working on up to 12 cars at the same time. A 14-foot center door allows larger vehicles such as motor homes and trucks to be brought inside.
“It just made sense to us to consolidate,” said John Eacret, co-owner of both businesses along with son Rich. “We reduced our overhead this way and end up with a much better shop and a parts store that supports it. The shop is the engine that makes it go.”
Blaine Auto Parts has been renting from absentee landlords, Eacret said, since he bought the business from former owner Don Meyer in 2004 and decided not to purchase the downtown building.
His son Rich started Alley Auto as an auto repair business in 2001.
Asked about expanding two businesses so dramatically at a time when most people are pulling back on spending, Eacret said that he’s not worried.
“People want to keep their cars going,” he said, “and this lets us help them do that better at less cost to us by consolidating the two operations in a building we own.”
Alley Auto also offers pick-up and delivery for local customers, will do service calls and has an in-house SAE-certified marine, diesel and gasoline mechanic in Jim Allen.
Kirk Fengel manages Blaine Auto Parts and said that he’s taking it in the direction of a more serious parts business.
“We got rid of the flashy stuff, the 29 different chrome air cleaner covers,” he said, “because we need the space to stock the parts we need to support not only the shop but the many customers who come here for parts they install themselves.”
The parts store isn’t much bigger – the store and shop together are just a little under 10,000 square feet – but will have a smaller retail space and much more room devoted to storage.
“The goal is to have more things on hand and less that must be ordered so people don’t have to wait,” said Fengel, who is also a mechanic, having served on the nuclear sub U.S.S. Permit as a machinist’s mate.
He’s also a life-long motorcyclist who rides a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 and has just bought an on/off road Suzuki 200, his 25th bike.
He’ll stock motorcycle parts as well as being a source for “everything on your car from the tires to the top of the antenna.”
A better computer system will feature more graphics to give customers a look at how parts can be installed for the kind of customers, Fengel said, who “want to keep their cars running even to the point of doing significant repairs rather than trading in.”
By accessing the registration data base for the county he can estimate what kinds of parts to stock for the numbers of a given type of car. “There are more Fords than Bentleys,” he joked.
The parts store will offer tires and wheels as well as transmissions. The shop will have some things it will subcontract, such as paint, body work and wheel alignments.
The store’s bread and butter items will continue, he said, things like tune-up parts, brakes, transmission filters, tire chains, car care items and cleaning supplies, and a lot of windshield wiper blades.
“We’re happy to install them as well at no charge,” he said, emphasizing that as a part of what he calls small-town service.
“In some ways we can’t compete with Wal-Mart, but we’re closer, we’re local and we offer a level of service they can’t.
“And something will be on sale every week.”
Alley Auto is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the new location, 365 D Street, and can be reached at 325-0231. Blaine Auto Parts will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
They can be reached at 332-7018. A grand opening is planned for later in the month.