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Growth fuels expansion of Napa Auto Parts in Newport

Steve Linn moved the Linn Companies' Napa Auto Parts store in Newport to a new, larger facility. The store opened earlier this month. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente

Space constraints, an industry transformation and - oddly enough - the struggling economy prompted the Newport Napa Auto Parts store to expand to a new, larger facility.

Standing in the new store last week, owner Steve Linn said the auto parts retailer had outgrown its former Hastings Avenue location. At the same time, there is stronger demand for replacement auto parts.

With those factors in mind, Linn Companies built and recently opened the new Napa store at 1586 Hastings Ave., across the parking lot from the store's old space. The company owns both properties.

The transition to the new store was nearly complete last week, though employees still were stocking the shelves.

"It's still a work in progress," Linn said. "We're not done yet."

With the new Napa location comes expanded hours. The store is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

The store is 9,000 square feet - nearly double the old store's space - but also includes an additional 3,500 square feet of second-floor warehouse space.

It used to be that the auto parts industry was a three-step process, Linn explained. Parts went from manufacturer to a warehouse and then to a series of stores. Now the industry is cutting out the middle step and sending parts directly from the manufacturer to the stores, which do double duty.

"This is a warehouse," Linn said.

The Newport Napa sells to walk-in customers and also supplies parts to a number of area auto repair shops and to the cities of Newport, Cottage Grove and Hastings, which service their fleet vehicles. About 65 percent of Napa's business is wholesale, the remaining 35 percent retail, Linn said.

At full staffing the Newport Napa will employ about 25 to 30 workers, about 10 more than were at the previous location. Many are part-time drivers who deliver parts.

The struggling economy actually has provided some benefit to the business, Linn said.

"It's been very good for the after-market parts business because consumers are keeping their cars longer," he said. That means more repair-related purchases.

Newport is a good location for the Linn Companies' Napa store because of its proximity the repair shops it delivers to in the east and southeast metro.

"It's central," Linn said. "For us it couldn't be better. Not every retailer considers Newport their preferred spot, but we do. For what we're doing it fits."

Linn Companies is marketing the former Napa space for leasing. If the 4,800-square-foot spot isn't occupied after several months, Linn said, they may consider opening their own business in the space they own. A liquor store is one idea, he said.

If you go

The Newport Napa Auto Parts store plans a grand opening and open house on Nov. 15. A ribbon-cutting will be at 3 p.m. The open house is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call (651) 458-8000.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

(651) 459-7600