Locally owned and operated for 29 years, Ashland Auto Parts Inc. is owned by Sherman and Jami Peters. Not only do they know nearly everyone in town who has ever needed a part to fix their car, they also have far-reaching connections all around the Rogue Valley. This includes their sister store in Phoenix, appropriately named Phoenix Auto Parts Inc.
Finding those hard to find widgets for everything from old engine parts to new parts—even parts for hybrid and electric cars—is what they do best! Sherman and his crew have the connections and resources that you need to track down and find exactly what you want when you need it. Sherman even promised that he could find me a wing of a Boeing 747 if I needed one. He then went on to say, ”It’s a rare occasion when I’m saying ‘No’ to being able to find a part.” Jami validated his comment by joking with me about how extensive their inventory actually is—and she should know:her job has been keeping a close eye on running the back-end support and management of day-to-day business. This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill auto supply chain. This is Ashland’s longest standing auto parts store for getting everything your automotive and mechanical repair projects require.
This is truly a family owned and run business which now collectively employs more than 11 people between both stores. What makes this business truly unique, though, is not just the extreme depth of knowledge that Sherman and his team provides, but the sheer passion and love for what they do: “Most of our employees have been with us for over a decade and we all have one thing in common which is that We Love Cars”.
Talking about inventory with Sherman, he can rattle off so many obscure items that he alone would know. He certainly has not been the typical type of business owner to hide behind the scenes, Jami says: ”He is up there and engaged with the customers, always learning and listening to what they are wanting.”
Thirty years in business is a huge accomplishment, not to mention the legions of local fans who have supported and worked with the business for years. “I think I must know about 7 out of 10 people by first name who walk through the door,” Sherman says.
I headed over to the Ashland store to get a behind-the-scenes look of Ashland Auto Parts Inc.
Jami and Sherman, thanks so much for speaking with us today and thank you for your interest in being interviewed in the Locals Guide!
Thank you. We love the LocalsGuide and have really enjoyed reading all the great interviews and getting to know the older and newer businesses in town. We’ve been around for so long. As you mentioned, knowing so many of our customers on a first name basis, we wanted to take another step forward in greeting the community to personalize our business. We want to share more about ourselves and our amazing crew we have here. Ashland has grown so much since we first started out. We wanted to reach out as a way of giving back and letting people know the level of service and experience when choosing to work with our shops
both in Ashland and in Phoenix.
It’s a great testament to have been able to own and run a successful business in our community for so long, not to mention that most of your employees have been with you for years.
This is true… We have amazing employees in Ashland. Chris Brown has been with us 20 years; Andy Powell, 10 years; Mark Anderson 14 years. Dean Rott was with us 25 years when he retired. Shawn Toothman, our manager in Phoenix, has been with us since his 18th birthday (14 years ago). We are a close company. Just the other day one of our employees in Phoenix told me that he would be leaving… and that it was so hard for him to do because we are essentially like family. Choosing and finding the right people to work with us, providing information and parts for their automobile: it’s the going above and beyond to find what people need.
Jami, you guys now have three grown children that were also raised in the store.
We do. Colby, 27, started working at 12, and has been in the Air Force now for 7 years; Caleb, 23, has worked off and on in the store since he was 12, but also works on our family ranch (Fall Creek Ranch). Amber, 20, has worked for us since she was 12 or 13. Her husband, Ben Mickey, works for us also. Now we have grandchildren I take to work with me. We always joke with our employees that working for us includes babysitting skills. We have employees that work as if it’s their own business. Most of them watched our kids grow up and now our grandkids.
Sherman, can you talk about the experience you have acquired over the years and your passion for running the business?
I was born and raised in Yreka, CA. I have an older sister and younger brother. My dad has four brothers. Their dad, my grandfather, Walt, taught them work ethic, and in turn they taught all of us work ethic (and there are a lot of us). My Dad had a CarQuest Auto Parts store as I was growing up; I began working there at 13 and learned customer service young from watching all my family be in businesses. I knew since I was young I would be good at finding, selling, and backing my parts.
Supporting community has been important to you both.
When you live in a smaller community you get to know a lot of people, so for us giving back is important. We have helped many little league teams throughout the years. We support the Jackson County Fuel Committee, boy scouts, girl scouts, any school or church car washes, bought many 4-H animals, the list goes on.
I would like to commend you both for having done all this together on top of raising your kids. You guys are tough!
Thank you, we did what we thought best to raise our children out of town. They didn’t always love it as teenagers. But now that they are grown they all thank us for the experience. They grew up riding horses, 4-wheelers, both boys had motorcycles, building tree forts, hunting and no video games. They were among the last to have an Xbox. They all learned to drive on the Greensprings no matter the weather conditions: rain, fog, and snow. It was a challenge having to drive half an hour to town for work and school every day then another half hour home at night. Needless to say we love living in town now!
Let’s talk about inventory. Where do you go about getting your inventory and what are some examples of the most nuanced or difficult to find parts you have located recently?
We have a distribution center in Portland that most our parts come from. But through the years I’ve learned to network with so many different companies around the country that it is a rare occasion when we cannot find what our customers need.
I pride myself on finding the customers what they need.
Our Ashland store was one of four auto parts stores when I started; it’s now been quite a few years since there was another one here in town.
I understand that soon the business will be changing from a Napa to CarQuest. What changes will this present to the customer?
That’s correct. Other than one sign coming down and another going up we shouldn’t have any significant changes to our customers. Same locations, same great customer service, and the same availability to all the inventory and more with our new affiliation to CarQuest. Of course we will have administrative changes on the back end but the overall brand changed will simply more closely tie together both our Phoenix location with our Ashland one. If we don’t have a part in one location we have it in the next. If it’s not in Phoenix, Sherman sets out to find it and he usually turns up a few hours later having located it. Even though we have had a NAPA sign on the store, what has truly made it unique has been Sherman and the team who work tirelessly to support the customers.
I know you guys have deep relationships with all your customers.
Yup, we hear it all the time and that is what we have loved about being part of Southern Oregon. Just the other day I was overhearing one of my employees talking with one of our customers who was raving about how helpful we had been to him. I take a lot of pride in this. We always put windshield wipers on anyone’s car, we test starters, alternators, batteries, plus we charge batteries, turn rotors and drums, make hydraulic hoses and we rent tools, too. It’s really a rare occasion when one of us isn’t in the parking lot with a customer.
I’d love for you guys to tell us a bit more about your own lives of living and growing up here in Southern Oregon. For example, where did you first meet?
We grew up not too far apart, our upbringings were about the same, I didn’t have as big a family as Sherman though. We actually met at the old Emigrant Lake Tavern; we both had gone there to listen to a certain band. He introduced himself to me and that was it. I’m sure we both knew that night it was going to last, a love at first sight thing. Although he did find out I lived on the Greensprings and asked me if I knew of a famous old trapper named Vernon Hopkins. Yes I did actually, he was my Great-Grandfather. Sherman was in love.
Sherman, can you tell us more about the stores and how they are equipped both in employee training and being able to assist customers with all sorts of needs?
Sure. As you know we are not just doing car repair parts, though that is 90% of our business and we can really find anything you need for any type of car. We also can get tractor parts, industrial parts, trailer parts, the list is endless. Chris Brown has been with us 20 years, he is an expert on RVs, boats, and motorcycles. Andy Powell has worked for us for 10 years; he is an expert at looking and finding old car parts. Mark Anderson, our outside salesman, has been with us 14 years; he knows all things about tools and equipment. I know about all of it but really pride myself on heavy duty and import parts. Our manager in Phoenix is Shawn Toothman. He began working for us on his 18th birthday, and Sherman began teaching him young how to run a store. He has been with us for 14 years now. We had an employee retire after 25 years also.
What can customers expect when working with your business?
That we will always go above and beyond to find what you need, we don’t give up easily. We want you to come back again and again knowing we are here to help you get what you need.
Jami and Sherman, thanks for doing this interview with us. Do you have any last comments you would like to share with our readers?
Thanks again for helping us get our story out. Thank you to all our faithful customers for all these years, its because of you we are the thriving business we have become. Being part of this community is who we are.
Ashland Auto Parts
1952 Ashland St.
Ashland, Or 97520