that old saying that goes, "whatever
goes around, comes around." Dennis
Roberts Sr. and Little Roberts Auto
Parts in Kansas City, Mo., are seeing
the wisdom in that adage. It took five
years, almost to the day, but the business
has come full circle.
In August 1999, Roberts sold
his business, then known as Little Roberts
Auto Salvage, to GreenLeaf Auto Recyclers,
one of the nation's largest recycled-part
suppliers with multiple locations across the
country. In August 2004, with the help of
partner Don Edwards, he bought it back and
changed the name to Little Roberts Auto Parts,
"I sold it because the
price was right," Roberts explained. "But
it's really good to be back."
The complex includes approximately
60,000 square feet of buildings and a 1,000-vehicle
inventory on 18 acres, plus a 30,000-square-foot
off-site warehouse. It maintains a delivery
fleet of five trucks, plus a rollback and 18
In his deal with GreenLeaf, Roberts
retained ownership of the land and buildings.
He remained an employee of GreenLeaf for the
first year, then spent the subsequent four years
building a subsidiary business, Roberts Classic
Cars, which builds custom hot rods and other
Edwards, Roberts' close friend
in the reacquisition, owns C & H Auto Salvage,
also in Kansas City. Both men are very enthusiastic
about the "new" Little Roberts.
"We've made a lot of
changes in the operation, and it's back on its
feet and getting better every day," Roberts
revealed. "But it will still take us probably
another year to get to where we want to be."
He said that, as part of the transition,
Little Roberts sent letters to all former and
existing customers explaining the change. Following
that we launched a new web site - www.LittleRobertsAutoParts.com.
Another point of speculation is
the Little Roberts name itself. It turns out
to be a Kansas City icon.
Roberts explained, "My
grandfather, Curtis Roberts, started the family
in the salvage business in the 1940s. His place
was called Roberts Auto, and he was a pretty
big man. My dad, Bill Roberts, opened his own
yard from the mid-'50s to the late-'60s, and
he was a little guy - around 135 pounds. He
became known as Little' Roberts, and that's
what he named his business."
When Roberts opened his own business
in 1977, his father had already closed the original
Little Roberts, so he adopted the name to capitalize
on its popularity.
Last year, Roberts' sons, Dennis
Jr. and Kent, decided to become the fourth generation
of Robertses in the industry. But to avoid confusion,
they named their business County Line Auto Salvage,
located in nearby Kingsville.
Although it's only been a short
time since the buyback, Roberts is relying on
that old saying to bring Little Roberts back
to where it used to be. "We're getting
an excellent response from our old customers,
and we're gaining new ones. They see the positive
changes that we've made, and we're winning back
their confidence and business."