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You Can Still Come To Western Auto

February 15th, 2009 · 29 Comments

By David Stratford

Western AutoGRAFTON – On Route 17 in York County, Virginia remains one of the great remaining Western Auto stores. Don’t you just love the flags on the front? Six of them!

The chain was a national giant in auto parts and appliances. The chain opened in 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri as a mail order company. It was founded by George Pepperdine, who founded Pepperdine University. The first store opened in 1921. It became a national icon; many of the stores not only sold auto parts, but appliances and the like.

Back not too many years ago, car parts dealers and car repair shops often sold small appliances. For Generation X and older, Western Auto was also know as the home of the Western Flyer, which was a great bike. Take a peek at the Youtube commercial, which advertises “The lightweights for today’s young moderns.”

In 1987, Sears bought Western Auto, but it was no match for the growing power of retailers like Advance Auto (NYSE: AAP), which purchased many of the stores. Many dealers turned into Sears stores, and the rest turned into Advance Stores. Except this one in Grafton, which has been a Western Auto for decades.

Sadly, Advance did not see the value in the brand, but many independent stores, luckily, stayed independent and began sourcing auto parts from elsewhere. The Wikipedia entry on Western Auto mentions other stores in Marianna, Florida, Lincolnville, Maine, Stevensville, Maryland, Starkville, Mississippi, Forest, Mississippi, Trinity, Texas, and Henderson, Texas.

Apparently, the Western Auto name is still used in Puerto Rico, where it is the largest such chain, even though the Western Auto name is being phased out store by store into Advance stores, according to their Wikipedia entry.

While Advance Auto is a fine Virginia company, it is regrettable that they did not see more value in the Western Auto legacy. Thankfully, some of the pieces of the brand have survived as living bits of American automotive (and educational) history. Thankfully, some of the former dealers are still using the name; it still has some value, and if it were promoted as a general merchandise store that sold auto parts, it could have some value.The name is still registered to Advance, but a company cannot keep a brand name that it does not use.

Great stuff: Click here for a Western Auto sign in Kansas City.

And click here for a Western Auto commercial with bikes for the family.

More branding stories of interest:

History of Dritz, a Great Sewing Brand
Interview: Singer Songwriter Jake Holmes, America's Most Memorable Jingle Writer
Note to Sears: Nobody Needs More Stuff
Companies Truckin' in a "Deadhead" Economy
How Sears Does Social Media
Ace Hardware the Place for Sears Craftsman

Tags: Cars · Deathwatch · Retail

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dooney Tickner // Feb 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    There is another extant Western Auto in Bonifay, FL. It is a great store with a hybrid assortment of furniture, major appliances, galvanized trash cans, hand tools, yard tools, electrical repair items, wash tubs, brooms, etc. It’s not quite a full-line hardware store, but it still fills a need in the community. There are several other Western Auto stores located in south Alabama and north Florida.

    Alas, another iconic brand just languishing.

  • 2 DoKC:: 3 Best Business Image Improvement Companies | "DoKC" // May 5, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    [...] From the Western Flyer bike to auto parts and small appliances they were America’s hometown store.  A few still exist. [...]

  • 3 Mike // May 11, 2009 at 4:38 am

    My father had a W.A. for many years in Lewiston, Idaho and in Elko, Nevada. I remember some their sub brands:

    TrueTone Electronics
    Revelation Sporting Goods
    Citation Appliances
    Wizard Hardware/Lawn Goods

    Always had fun playing on the riding lawnmowers and minibikes.

  • 4 T Burke // Nov 30, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I may own the oldest Western Auto still in business. My grand father started our WA , november 1940. I have worked at the store for over 30 years. The last WA convention, many years ago, they announced the oldest surviving store. Our store was started 6 months after them.
    I am located at
    501 East 3rd St
    Siler City NC. 27344
    919-742-2127

  • 5 Dennis // Feb 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I have fond memories of the Western Auto store in Bluewell, WV when I was a kid in the early 70′s. I also lived just up the road from the WA store mentioned in the article. Anybody remember Truetone guitars? I sure do!

  • 6 Ernie Briefel // Feb 18, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I recall selling many guitars and musical accessories to Western Auto stores and attending
    their conventions. Fond memories…..We still sell thousounds of guitars and other instruments and wonder if you might be interested in them?

  • 7 Mike Watson // Mar 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I well remember those same brand names and quality goods we all sold for many years. I am a third generation in the family business that my grandfather started in November of 1936. We made the transition in 1998 to True Value Hardware after realizing that Western Auto was in trouble.

  • 8 ken wells // Mar 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    When i finished h.s. I went to Nashville, tn. and went to work for Western Auto’s wharehouse until they closed. I opened a small garage restoring old cars and building hotrods and ratrods. Opened the ratsnest next door selling anything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with cars. Any help with merchindise, like Western Auto used to be. thanks

  • 9 Michael P Pepperdine // May 18, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Hi Everybody: I Like All The Great Thing’s You Have Said. I’am Selling The Orginal Book About Western Auto, And Pepperdine Univ, Signed By Uncle George 1959 To My Dad And Mom Ben Pepperdine Jr. If Anyone Is Interested? I can Be Emailed At michrodrigue@gmail.com. Thankyou Michael P Pepperdine

  • 10 Michael P Pepperdine // May 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Everybody: I stated Yesterday I Had One Book For Sale. But There Are Two Book’s. My Aunt Helen Wrote A Book After My Uncle George Passed On. The Title His Faith Was His Fortune. Uncle George’s Book Is My Faith Was My Fortune. Thankyou Michael P

  • 11 Mack Mcallister // Jun 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I remember the WA in Durham, NC when I went into the Armed Forces in 1996 and when I came home , they had closed the store. Since retiring, I have been trying to find a store near my home to still shop at. WA sold bikes and I want to buy one for health reasons. Please help. Thanks.

  • 12 Mark // Jun 19, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I worked at the largest Western Auto in the World. Well, a few years after it was cut in half. It was built by Verle Davidson in Nicoma Park and when it was fully operational it was nearly the size of an older Walmart store. As the shopping center became successful he divided it in half. My dad came along and was the manager until Werstern Auto closed all the company stores in Oklahoma. Then he bought it and tried to keep it running until he decided to close down because the shopping center was falling apart. My dad had managed 6 different W.A. stores in his life and we moved a lot.

  • 13 Sheryl // Jun 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    We ran across an apartment size electric range for sale that appears to be from the 50′s. The only name on it is ‘Wizard’. We could not find any other information on it but believe it was sold by Western Auto. We are unable to plug it in where located to see if it works and are trying to find out if we can buy parts for it and whatever else we can find out. Any information would be helpful.

  • 14 ROBB // Jul 7, 2010 at 2:07 am

    HELLO,

    THERE IS STILL A WESTERN AUTO IN CAMERON MISSOURI THAT IS STILL UP AND GOING JUST THOUGHT YOU ALL MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW THIS LIL TIDBIT.

  • 15 Dave Bentley // Jul 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Sirs: I am looking for parts for an power garden cultivator sold by Western Auto yrs ago. I believe it may be a Bolens. It was a stock number 4xw5840, SN 105138 . Any info would be much appreaciated. DavidBentley162@msn.com

  • 16 Steve Head // Aug 4, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I have worked at the distribution center in Gastonia, N.C. for 39 years. I went to work there a year after the distribution center opened and have been there ever since. Western Auto management was very good, they seemed to care for their employees!

  • 17 John Burkett // Aug 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    My name is John Burkett and for many years Iworked in a Western Auto owned by my father in Milford, Del. The store closed during the later part of the 1980s. My father gave me a rather large inventory of new Wizard Auto parts and I am trying to locate a reference guide or any old catalogs that i can find to reference automotivr info.. Most of the parts are for very old cars. I have complete carbs, fuel pumps, gasket sets and ignition parts for Model T’s and for cars that are in the 1929 through 1950′s. I have several master cyl and wheel cyl repair kits but have no reference as to what they fit. Please help if you can. (1-252-288-6911)

  • 18 Tom Daughtery // Aug 29, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Hi, I’m looking for slipstream wax i use to use on my car in the 70′s. Do you still carry it, and can you send me some? Thank you, Sincerely, Tomaso.

  • 19 steve freeman // Nov 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    For Christmas in 1965 my mom bought me a revelation semi auto 22 cal. rifle. (marlin) I was 15 yrs. old. She paid $35 for it. It was purchased in Waldorf Md. @ W.A. . I still have it and its in excellent cond. Its primary use was to put food on the table. I think a box of shells cost .59 cents back then.

  • 20 David Rex // Mar 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    My uncle and aunt owned a WA in Hicksville, OH from the 50′s into the 70′s while my parents owned one in Tecumseh, MI from 1955-1962. Terrific memories. Competition become tighter and WA did not give the dealers the pricing they needed to meet it according to Dad. At Christmas time, Dad had the neatest Lionel train display. Sold American Flyer as well.

  • 21 neal // Mar 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    George Pepperdine founded both Western Auto and Pepperdine University. It’s a beautiful place right on the beach at Malabu, California. Great law school and a great business school.

  • 22 Don Miller // Apr 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I owed the Western Auto in Unionville, Missouri for about 18 years. Any one around that remembers? Great store and I was a very young owner, and thought I knew it all. Maybe I did… :)

    Don Miller

  • 23 Justin // Dec 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Anyone recall a Western Auto in downtown East St. Louis, Illinois? It was off State Street and was there in the 1980s.

  • 24 ozzie sherrill // Jan 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Steve Head-both my grandparents worked at that distribution center…Dot Davidson in the offices and Cordie Davidson as a truck driver. I have memories of going and hanging out there as a kid in the late 70′s and early 80′s

  • 25 Miguel Santos // May 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I remember going to Western Auto growing up both in Puerto Rico during the 80s and in the United States during the 90s. I did a little research online, and found out that there are roughly 55-60 Western Auto stores still in operation in the United States, not affiliated with Advance Auto Parts. This shows that the Western Auto name refuses to die and in fact, still has value. Since a company cannot keep a brand name it does not use, there is little to nothing Advance can do to prevent any new auto parts stores from using the Western Auto name should that possibility arise. After all, it is a very historical brand name!

  • 26 Nigel // May 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Cromwell range sold by Western Auto

    Anyone ever heard of it? I have one and can find no information online anywhere about it.

  • 27 Bob Poole // Sep 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Hi
    I have an old WA Westcraft lathe from the mid 1940′s. Can anyone tell me where I can find information on these and WA catalogs from that period. Thanks

  • 28 John Legowik // Apr 23, 2013 at 1:05 am

    I am looking for any and all information on Westcraft lathes. Please email me with anything you have. Pictures, adds whatever.

  • 29 Dane Whaley // May 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Almost bought the WA store in Hiawatha, KS., in 1973. Had WA franchise approval and the the bank approved the loan… Until WA pulled out first lien paperwork for the bank to sign off on. The bank wanted first lien on the inventory and so did WA. My dream of owning a WA store evaporated and it was a blessing in disguise. Within a year Walmart came to town and WA was no more in Hiawatha, Kansas.

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