Saturday, June 2, 2012

End of an Era

In 1949, my grandfather bought a store in Deer Park, Ohio and started Deer Park Auto Parts, an independently-owned NAPA franchise. My dad eventually took over the business and built it into 3 stores total with 30+ employees.

This business was such a huge part of my family and my dad's identity for my entire life. It put me and my siblings through college and provided us with stability and a sense of pride that this was 'ours.' We worked there on and off throughout high school and college, and a number of my friends worked for NAPA at one time or another as well.

Even the ridiculous commercials (NAPA know-how? With a guy singing?) remind me of so many things from my life that are tied to this company, but more than anything else, this business was my dad. Seeing how he got up every day, went to work, and busted his ass to take care of his family and his employees was truly inspirational and one of the cornerstones of my life.

Since my dad died, I knew that the day would come when we would sell the business and move on. I'm so proud of my brother, who stepped up in ways I can't even describe to manage the business (all while going to grad school, raising 2 kids, working full time and maybe taking 2 or 3 minutes a day to relax), and my uncle, who came in as our general manager and kept the business stable these last 2 years. Both of them deserve more thanks than I know how to give, and I can't think of a better way they could honor my dad than by handling this company the way they did.

Deer Park Auto Parts is no longer my family business, and it's hard to see something so linked to my dad go away. I'll always be grateful for everything this business meant to my family, and so glad to see it taken over by people who care about both the company and the employees. My dad worried about his employees and what would happen to them up to the very end of his life, and I know he'd be so proud to see that they're all a part of a growing company, even one with a different name and new owners.

Saying goodbye is always difficult, but sometimes it's the best way to remember how much something has meant to you. I was always proud to work at NAPA alongside my dad, and it'll always be a part of our lives.

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