SAVANNAH— "Politics is a bunch of bull-crap," says Mike of Paul's and Son Auto Parts.
The economic climate is not treating folks right these days--- but I find it especially telling that a family-owned and operated auto parts store in the south could go belly-up. The place has been around for 30+ years.
"People would come in asking for parts because the yahoos over at Advance didn't have a god-damned clue about anything if the computer went down."
The crisis is cultural. It's not like people don't need parts, they just don't understand the value of a place like Paul's. Let's say your truck breaks down and you ain't got the cash for parts. If you can't drive to work, how are you gonna pay for the parts? Mike would front the parts to you no problem, you'd get your truck fixed, go to work, and come back later to pay off the balance.
"Good luck getting service like that at some franchise auto parts store."
Sure those franchises offer parts at a lower price, however, what are the unseen costs of taking your business there? Aside from the minimum-wage jobs there is a homogenization of the parts-store experience. Every Advance looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. Value is determined by data, quarterly gains, and stock prices.
The value of Paul's and Son increased every day that it was open--- it reeks of grease and American parts--- thousands of deals sealed with a firm handshake. The store had character. Paul's was unique to Savannah, but at the same time it was unique to America. A franchise just can't compete with these qualities.
As I'm talking to Mike a guy pulls up outside, "You got any struts for my truck?" The business is unmistakably closed, has been for weeks, but the few loyal souls who need parts are still dropping by when they see Mike's truck out front. He tells the guy he's out of those particular parts, if it was a '93 he would have been in luck, "Check Advance down the street."