Auto Service World
Feature   March 10, 2016   by Steve Pawlett

C&R Auto Supply Celebrates 40 Years


After forty years in the automotive aftermarket business, founder/owner Ron Clarke says the success of Halifax’s C&R Auto Supply comes down to a simple principle: customer service.
“When a customer comes to us, we treat them so well they won’t go anywhere else. Today we have a lot of second-generation customers coming in here; that attests to our level of service,” declares Clarke.
“We are the last independent left. We’ve been here since 1976, and there have been 17 jobbers who have gone out of business since then. We also do a lot of military cash and carry and a lot of unique business that we have developed over the years,” he continues. “We have over 100 taxi drivers that buy their parts from us. We built that relationship over the years. We also have an installer program, and have seven installers that we have long-term relationships with. The shipyard, which is just down the street from C&R Auto, has a new ship-building contract for $25 billion, so we are in a really nice location here in the north end of Halifax.”
Clarke started the business back in 1976 with his partner Chuck Zinck. With hard work and lots of laughs, the two were able to build their business quickly in the early days. Since then, C&R Auto has undergone many transformations. Upon Chuck’s early retirement and, sadly, a much too early passing, Ron continued to carry on, and has worn many hats over the years. “I can’t retire. I tried. It’s impossible, so I’m not even going to think about it. I just love what I do too much. I started when I was 17 years old and I’m 70 now, but I feel like I’m 22,” says Clarke.
Ron’s son James joined the company in 1995. Over that time, James has become a knowledgeable automotive industry specialist, and C&R’s general manager and go-to guy for all automotive parts inquiries. But Ron is still very much involved in the day-to-day operations, ensuring prompt and pleasant delivery to their many corporate customers.
“I’ve dealt with Brian, Ryan, Jamie, and Ronnie, and you would swear to God they were country folk,” laughs Shirley Tanner of Atlantic 12 Volt, located just outside Hubbard, Nova Scotia.
“We were just in the store at Christmas,” she continues. “I was really impressed with the store. I think what’s kept them in business so long is their customer service and their competitive pricing. If you don’t treat your customers right, they are just going to go somewhere else. Then you are spending money trying to get back customers you shouldn’t have lost in the first place. These guys certainly don’t suffer from that.”
While C&R Auto has always been in the automotive aftermarket, it is also heavily focused on industry and marine. “About six years ago we decided we wanted to move in a more retail direction with the store. We’re located in north Halifax, which, at one time, was a tough area to be in, but now with all the redevelopment going on, it’s a really nice area again and we’ve worked hard to build up our walk-in traffic. And it’s hard to hurt that,” explains Clarke.
“Vast Auto is one of our suppliers and we deal with Altrom, which is just up the street from us, for import parts, and Worldpac is nearby too. We are in a great location. We are just across the bridge from all the major suppliers. We have a good inventory with good turns, but the access to suppliers nearby does make it easier for us.
“I live in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and there is a Vast Auto Value corporate store there. I travel 125 km to work every day. I’m up at 3:30 in the morning and on the road by 5:30, so I pick up a lot of stuff at that store. That works out well for us,” adds Clarke.
C&R Auto is now in the process of launching a new website. “We’ve kept a pretty low profile for a lot of years, but now, with the retail store focus, we are looking to change that.”
Based on C&R Auto Supply’s accomplishments
to date, it looks like this jobber will be around to celebrate another 40 years in the business. nJN


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