February '19

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30 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2019 ourselves on finding that item. Or, we'll find out more about it and refer him to someplace where he can get it." However, there have been pitfalls to Kniola Automotive's devotion to accom- modating customers. One of the businesses' greatest obstacles is when customers order parts and never return to pick them up, which can end up costing the shop rev- enue since sending product back to the warehouse often comes with a cost. "It's part of the nature of the business, I'm sorry to say," Kniola says. GOOD PEOPLE Kniola credits the success of the shop to his supportive wife and family and the robust long- term relationships he's developed with vendors, particularly Watervliet, Michigan-based Motor State Distributing and Joliet, Illinois-based Winner's Circle Speed and Custom. Kniola Automotive partnered with the distributors long before they were after- market giants. He began working with Motor State founder George Lane in 1968 and with Winner's Circle Speed and Custom founder Jim Bingham in the early 1970s—both industry legends he admires and considers close friends. "I wouldn't be in my position today without George Lane and his family and Jim Bingham and his family," he says. "You couldn't ask for better businesses to deal with." Kniola appreciates the distributors' diverse product lists and service he receives from employees. He's happy to know just about everyone at their warehouses. While he admires so many people in the aftermarket industry, Kniola is also somewhat concerned by its lack of younger members, making it difficult for perfor- mance shops and companies to hire good employees. "The gas stations that used to be on the corners where guys would hang out and pick up knowledge about the cars are gone," he says. "And when you go to any of the trade shows, you don't see many young people." LOOKING AHEAD Kniola has also noticed that new college graduates who enter performance fields are often equipped with great marketing and business skills but lack familiarity with the industry and the products they represent. Still, he's adapting to the new generation. "I'm humbled to be able to talk to some of these young people who are in this industry and do have a lot of knowledge and they take the time to explain stuff to me that I've never known," Kniola says. "I try to approach them with respect for what they do know." Kniola feels fortunate that someday he'll pass along his business to his knowledge- In the yard sits an eclectic collection of vintage vehicles. In a way, Kniola salvage yard is a museum, where the elements persist and the cars will eventually find their place in history. In the yard, the eclectic stock of vintage vehicles includes an armored car that once protected Wells Fargo cash caches and a tractor once used in a nearby cornfield. Love OF PARTS FOR THE

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