Business Feature: Store owner regroups after tornado hits

CNJ File Photo The Car Quest location on First Street was hit hard by the March 23 tornado, but the business owners have recovered by having their location on Seventh Street absorb its business.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

In his 35 years in the automotive parts business, Frank Aucutt has expanded and contracted his business.

The most recent contraction, however, wasn’t exactly planned.

“God had other plans, so I’m not going to argue,” joked Aucutt, the owner of the Car Quest parts store on First Street that was heavily damaged March 23 by a tornado.

Several of the store’s brick walls were knocked down along with the roof.

Aucutt said Monday he doesn’t think he will reopen the damaged store, instead opting to absorb the staff and stock into his second Car Quest store on Seventh Street.

“We are comfortable servicing our market with the single location,” Aucutt said. “We’re able to maintain the personnel, which is the key. We’re able to maintain it, in some ways, more efficiently with one location than two.”

The First Street location had two full-time employees and one part-time delivery person, and all have been absorbed into the Seventh Street staff.

“The Seventh Street (location) actually provides more services than the First Street (location had),” Aucutt said. “We had topnotch people on First Street, and we have them at Seventh Street now. Our Seventh Street staff is better than before.”

Aucutt said a few days after the tornado he had a strange thought that his business was like Humpty Dumpty, and he was waiting for all of the king’s horses and men to come. In a similar way, he feels the First Street Car Quest may never be put back together again.

“The building that’s left is structurally sound,” Aucutt said. “What do we want to do with it? That’s the next question. If I had somebody interested in the location, I’d probably build to suit.”

Is it a blessing in disguise for Car Quest’s profits? General manager Jim Casaus said he really doesn’t know. He hasn’t crunched all of the April numbers yet, but he figured there will be either a small loss or gain from previous months.

“It’s just that we’ve got both stores under one roof, and that’s where we see an increase (in business),” Casaus said. “If you look at the books of both stores, you wouldn’t see much of an increase.”