Small Business Spotlight Direct Auto Parts of Tampa


This month’s edition of Small Business Spotlight profiles Direct Auto Parts of Tampa, owned and operated by Jim and Jay McChristian. This father/son team has run the business since 2005 and has some great insight into what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Direct Auto Parts of Tampa, an aftermarket auto part store with a great reputation for their price-match guarantee and delivery, services both the professional and DIY mechanic communities and is located in Historic Ybor City. Previously, they were located near Lowry Park Zoo. The store’s current location is a great match for Direct Auto Parts, as the site was once a large auto repair center. An old photo from decades ago that hangs in the store proves it, complete with a Model T Ford!

Read on to find out what Jay has to say about running a business:

  1. Did you always want to go into business for yourself? It sort of happened naturally. I started working at the business by pitching in to help pick up and deliver auto parts. That fed into my interest in cars, which started back when I briefly owned a 1995 Thunderbird that got me to and from high school. It was a 10-year-old car with tons of miles on it when I got it, and it was such an improvement over the “old man’s car” that I first learned to drive on. If I knew back then that I’d own an auto parts store one day, I would have found a way to keep it.
  2. What spurred you to open your store? We have access to a number of suppliers with millions worth of inventory. This is a tremendous resource, and we’ve got long-time customers who know we can get them what they need.
  3. What makes Direct Auto Parts of Tampa different than other auto parts stores? First off, we’re Tampa’s only family-owned new auto parts store. We’re here to serve mechanics who run their own shops. These are the guys whose names are on the signs above the bay doors of small garages or those who work out in the open in a repair yard. They are “your friendly neighborhood mechanic”, and we’re “your friendly neighborhood auto parts store”. Big is not always better, and small businesses like ours just try harder to deliver on our promises of good service and great prices.
  4. What has been the most fulfilling part of owning your own business? What it comes down to is that we’re selling service, and because we do a good job, we’ve got people coming back time and again, year after year. I like that we solve problems. Nearly every day, someone will call us with a challenge. They have a hard-to-find car part or they think they need one thing, but we really are able to help them find something better. That makes the job fun because it’s offering solutions and saving people some time and money in the process.
  5. What has been the hardest part? The hardest part is having little vacation time!
  6. What advice do you have for other would-be entrepreneurs? You need a sounding board. You may think you have all the answers, and maybe you do – some days. But being able to have someone to bounce things off of once in a while is very valuable. Also, it helps to figure out what to offload from your “to-do list”.
  7. What is your most important consideration when it comes to day-to-day business operations? Being constantly vigilant in managing expenses and looking out for ways to lower costs. There are always innovative products and services being introduced that you should look into.
  8. What three traits do you think an entrepreneur needs to be successful? Commitment, energy, and a healthy sense of humor.

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