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Monroe Motor Products

To thrive for three generations as a family owned and operated company, Monroe Motor Products has had to keep its ears to the ground and its eyes on the road. As each decade brings on new technologies and new trends, Michael Gordon, president and CEO, says the company’s ability to react quickly when necessary, but still maintain a long-term view has been key to Monroe’s 94 years of success. And at the end of the day, Gordon says, as a needs-based seller, all the company’s decisions boil down to one question: Is it good for the customer?

“I believe that one of the strengths of our business and of our senior management team is that we make decisions for the right reasons and not the wrong reasons,” he says. “We take a longer-term approach to solutions. Thinking short-term may be more profitable for the time, but may not be the right decision for the long haul. But if it’s right for the customer, it’s right for us.”

Those customers include professional installers and everyday consumers, with the professionals comprising the bulk of the business. It serves these customers through two warehouse and distribution centers and 17 company-owned store locations. The company is also the main supplier to 15 additional independently owned store locations.

All of the locations, whether owned by Monroe or one of its customers, are branded under the name of Parts Plus, which is a marketing organization for automotive parts distributors. Parts Plus includes more than 50 independently-

owned distributors that leverage their combined purchasing power to buy products. Some, such as Monroe, own store outlets and will brand them under the Parts Plus name, as well.

“Parts Plus is a very comprehensive automotive parts marketing program,” Gordon explains. “It combines the efforts, talents and knowledge of suppliers and distribution members. [As distributors,] we put our purchasing power together to give us the ability to compete, and we also share many marketing programs on a national level. But the advantage is every company is independent and we have menu-based offerings. So independent stores or installers are free to work with the programs that best suit their individual needs.” 

Where It All Began

Monroe’s involvement with Parts Plus began in 1997, around the time that Gordon began actively leading the company in a new diversified direction. Originally, Monroe was formed as a warehouse distributor to serve Gordon Motor Parts, an auto parts retailer founded by Max Gordon, Michael Gordon’s grandfather. After World War II, the company dropped its retail divisions and grew the warehouse distribution business.

Today, under Michael Gordon’s leadership and assisted by more than 50 years of service by his father, Burt Gordon, the company now operates both successfully. “We started to view the marketplace a little differently, and we looked at it and said, ‘You know, we need to control more of our destiny,’ and the only way to do that is to buy stores,” Gordon says. Nearly ninety percent of Monroe’s distribution goes to its own stores and additional Parts Plus stores.

All Systems Go

In late 2009, Monroe made a move to strengthen both its store and warehouse distribution sectors when it acquired the Keuka Store Group, based in Hall, N.Y. The acquisition added a chemical specialty warehouse and distribution center and three stores. Gordon knew that for this new purchase to truly benefit his customers, it would have to mesh seamlessly with the entire company.

“Previously, we had our warehouse on a warehousing system and the stores on a store system and we had the Keuka Group on a different system. Then we had our separate general ledger system,” Gordon says. “What we did, starting in January of this year, is we are putting all those entities on one single operating system to control our entire company much better.

“I really applaud my employees for going through it and putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into this project,” Gordon says.

Those same employees, Gordon says, are Monroe’s greatest strength. “Whether they are a manager or front-line person, what we look for is certainly someone with the willingness to learn,” he says. “What sets this company apart is our entire company understands the meaning of customer service. I have a saying that we deliver hopefully more and never less than what we say.”

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