WYOMING — Michael Kelly, Sr. started Kelly Auto Parts in October 1967 out of the trunk of his car when he was just 21 years old, having graduated from Wilkes-Barre Business School.
With a $300 investment, he bought auto parts and took his business on the road, establishing a different route for each day of the week.
Kelly, who had worked for Cenera Auto Parts in West Pittston since he was 16, said operating a business wasn’t that difficult, but it required a tremendous amount of work.
Just before his 30th birthday and with three young children at home, Kelly opened his auto parts store on Feb. 7, 1976 at the intersection of Eighth Street and Wyoming Avenue, at the same location where it is today.
“I wanted to have a business on Wyoming Avenue before I turned 30,” he said. “And I did.”
His son Michael, Jr. has now taken over everyday operations of the business, working the long hours his father once did.
Still, the senior Kelly comes to the store every day.
“I’ll never retire,” he said. “I don’t think I would know what to do with myself.”
Kelly said the business is about 60 percent delivery to garages and 40 percent walk-in customers.
“We have three trucks on the road here,” he said.
Kelly said many things have changed over the years but quality customer service is one thing that has stayed the same.
Computers, for example, have changed the way the business manages its billing and locates information about its products.
“We used to look things up and write notes,” he said. “We had notes taped all over. Now, that information is stored on the computer.”
The size of necessary inventory has also increased, with many more types of cars and parts being produced.
“There used to be three different kinds of brakes and now there are 300,” he said.
The store has two locations, Wyoming and Mountaintop, and employs about 12 people. The Mountaintop store also has three trucks which deliver to garages.
The business continues to grow and adapt to customer needs.
“We’re hoping to build a warehouse on site,” Kelly said, “because our need for storing inventory keeps growing.”
Kelly said Wyoming Borough and the Greater Pittston area have been a great place to run a business and raise a family.
“I’ve always felt safe here,” he said. “It’s a good place.”
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