EXETER — A&A Auto has been a staple in the automotive parts industry in greater Pittston since 1958 when Joe Amato Sr. had a dream of selling car parts to the public. Sixty years later, Amato would not recognize the empire he created when he opened his first store in Moosic, a store that still stands today.
When Amato Sr. took ill with heart issues, Joe Amato Jr. took over the helm, growing the retail business before creating Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. in 1971.
Keystone’s huge warehouse facility in Exeter was constructed in 1988 and claims to be one of the largest automotive warehouses in the world at 80,000 sq. ft.
Amato’s business model was to provide large retail space serving as a distributor for many companies, providing quality parts for repair shops, backyard mechanics and weekend warrior car enthusiasts. That same model applies today, 18 retail stores later — five stores providing mechanical services, all in the eastern half of Pennsylvania where the business slogan is, “Parts for Enthusiasts, Sold by Enthusiasts.”
Amato Jr., who went on to be one of the most successful drag race car drivers in history, sold off both branches of the company in 1998.
Current owners LKQ (Like, Kind, Quality) acquired Keystone Automotive in 2014, making Keystone part of a $1 billion corporation, and continues to build the business, distributing parts throughout all of the U.S. and Canada and exporting to as many as 70 countries around the world.
Keystone owns seven warehouses spread over the country with 45 non-inventory stocking cross-docks and has approximately 3,000 employees utilizing over 500 truck/tractor trailers being headquartered from the Exeter offices according to John Ruch, Operations & Logistics director. Company trucks are estimated to travel over 30 million miles per year to assure product delivery within a 24-hour period.
Specializing in the areas of inventory, distribution and customer service from that point forward, Keystone strengthens its market reputation for assuring customer service excellence and superior product selection.
A&A Auto and Keystone Automotive, although under one umbrella, are considered two separate businesses, according to Rudy Forlenza, general manager and Director of Retail Operations, who is responsible for retail operations at all 18 stores.
A Pittston native, Forlenza has been with A&A Auto over 41 years. He began as a mechanic at the Wyoming Avenue, Exeter location, a position he held for 22 years. He eventually became the head mechanic, overseeing the shop. In time, management recognized Forlenza’s meticulous attention to detail and offered him a chance to help create a newly formed distribution service in 1998.
In the last few years, A&A has upgraded storefronts, started a new point-of-sale system and, to mark the company’s 60th anniversary, plans to give away a truck. A “My Rewards” program will also begin shortly. “It’s a new program and, as you are making purchases, you’re gaining points which will give you discounts off future purchases,” Forlenza said.
“To mark the 60th anniversary, we will be giving away a 2018 Chevy truck, all made up and will be valued at $60,000,” Forlenza said. “It will be decked out nicely.” The contest will run from June through November with the vehicle to be given away before Christmas. Information on the contest can be found at all 18 retail stores.
Forlenza has seen a lot of changes in his 41 years from beginning as a mechanic, to watching Keystone Automotive being born and growing to be an industry leader in OEM (original equipment manufacturer) aftermarket parts, to becoming a general manager of all A&A stores eight years ago.
“Our owners like the idea of us being headquartered in Exeter; now if you can see some of the state-of-the-art buildings, you’d be amazed. We’ve grown a lot,” Forlenza added.
What’s in store for A&A Auto?
“We are constantly looking at new ideas and new ways to better service the customer,” Forlenza said. “What’s going to set us apart from our competitors is our service.”
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.