Advance Auto Parts Celebrates 90 Years

Henry Ford's mass-produced Model T cost $950, a fraction of competitors' cars. With 19 million sold in the early 1920s, it was clear the automobile was now a part of American life. Still, one needed goggles, dusters and other accessories to be comfortable. Tires were flimsy. A rear-view mirror, gas gauge and driver’s-side door were considered extravagances and only available through the aftermarket.

That's when Arthur Taubman, a man with an ironclad work ethic and a strong sense of integrity, saw an opportunity. He purchased two stores from Pep Boys — one in Roanoke and one in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The tall, charismatic and dapper Taubman was once an indentured servant who eventually landed a job at B. Altman & Co, a busy New York department store. The experience made an indelible impression on young Taubman.  The store offered attentive customer service and a commitment to employees. There was a 9-to-5 workday and emergency relief for families. Taubman saw the direct payoff of an engaged, well-paid and appreciated workforce. They were unforgettable lessons and stayed with him forever.

First Expansion

Taubman learned of three more parts stores in Virginia that were struggling. These Advance Stores, owned by Moe Strauss of Pep Boys fame, had managerial and logistical problems. Seeing an opportunity, Taubman acted.

He sold his car to a pawnshop for $2,500 and borrowed another $22,500 (over $400,000 in today's dollars) On April 29, 1932, Advance Stores Company, Inc. came under the ownership of Arthur Taubman. It was a perfect move, giving Taubman the autonomy to put his business ideas and tenets into action.

Taubman painting

Arthur Taubman's Four Points

Long before mission statements, strategic planning or company charters, Arthur Taubman laid out four precepts for doing business:

Value. Provide a value for customers — for Advance, quality products at affordable prices.

Reputation. Have a solid reputation — nothing replaces honesty and integrity.

Satisfaction. Keep the goal in mind at all times — the pleasing of every customer with service and items that make him or her want to return.

Respect. Treat employees with love and respect — like a family.

Life in the 1930s

Businesses and families were struggling during the Depression. Yet even in the face of adversity, Taubman saw opportunity. Detroit auto production had fallen by 75 percent. Taubman knew people would need to keep their old cars on the road. Not only could you go to Advance for parts, but you could also get advice and help with minor repairs or maintenance tasks that could be done in-store or in the parking lot.

The way he valued relationships was also evident in the way he treated his employees. Even during the Depression, Advance became one of the first companies to offer benefits like paid sick leave, hospitalization insurance, paid vacation, profit sharing and employee discounts. Along with better-than-average pay, Taubman promoted teamwork and camaraderie with company sports teams and picnics. 

1932 Advance store interior

Photo from 1932

The War Ends

During the WWII years, when domestic car production ceased and rationing made auto parts scarce, Advance stores relied more on non-automotive product lines. Toy guns, cars, trains, dolls, and other gifts were available at the stores.

As WWII ended, Advance responded to changes, parting ways with Pep Boys and marketing their own house-brand tires. By the 1950s, Advance was on solid financial ground. It was at this time that Arthur Taubman's son, Nick, went to work for the company.

Advance Auto Parts 1930 storefront
Advance Auto Parts 1930 storefront

A New Era

Nick Taubman continued Advance's expansion to more states, eventually doubling the number of stores over the decade. By 1969, Arthur assumed the role of Chairman, and Nick became President, keeping the company focused on its core auto parts business.

By the start of the 80s, Nick had successfully taken Advance from a family-owned regional business to a publicly-traded national chain. Advance Auto was positioned as a category leader in automotive aftermarket parts.

The Unstoppable 80s

A massive flood tore through Roanoke in 1985. Advance's home office and distribution center were devastated by waist-deep water, testing the resilience and heart of the company. Rather than accept defeat, Advance started fresh with a new, massive distribution center.

By 1988, the 185,000 square-foot Roanoke Distribution Center opened, allowing Advance to expand so rapidly that by the end of the decade they had become the fastest-growing aftermarket parts retailer in the country.

Passing the Torch

Sadly, founder Arthur Taubman passed away in Boca Raton, Florida in 1994, but the company he founded went on to thrive. Nick assumed his father's role as Chairman, and Advance benefitted from the leadership of subsequent CEOs Garnett Smith, Larry Castellani, Mike Coppola, and Darren Jackson.

In 2015, Advance announced Tom Greco as the new CEO, leaving his position as Frito-Lay North America CEO.

Acquisitions, Expansion and Growth

The new century brought numerous acquisitions. In 2006, the 3,000th store opened in Salina, Kansas. In 2013, Advance Auto acquired General Parts International, Inc., which included the Carquest and Worldpac brands.

By 2018, Advance operated 4,966 stores and 143 Worldpac branches in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also, Advance was serving 1,231 independently owned Carquest branded stores in Mexico, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands and the Pacific Islands.

Advance Auto Parts Modern Store Front

 

DIEHARD AND FRAM COME TO ADVANCE

For all the uncertainty of 2020, Advance continued to grow and achieve. The inclusion of DieHard batteries, an American icon, was an incredible event with movie stars on the scene! Tough, built to last, and highly rated, your local Advance will install* your newly purchased battery for you.

Like DieHard, FRAM is another iconic automotive brand. FRAM and Advance Auto Parts partnered in 2021 to offer the exclusive FRAM Force and Titanium filters. Plus, Advance rolled out FRAM's new line of fluids, which range from motor oil to ATF to antifreeze and more! 

FRAM Titanium filter

CONTINUED GROWTH

Today, Advance continues to build on its reputation for excellence and integrity while keeping an eye toward the future and cutting-edge ways of doing business. Advance is currently expanding into California and extending the DieHard brand into power and hand tools and more.

Advance is always thinking in one direction: forward. We think that's a pretty good foundation for the next 90 years.

*Free services available on most vehicles, at most locations, unless prohibited by law.

Last updated July 12, 2022

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