Friday, January 22, 2021

NAPA’s New Owners Are Auto Parts Veterans

Brian Fehlhafer, left, Steve Stier and Dale Williams stand alongside the store’s delivery vehicle. PHOTO BY DON MANLEY

Brian Fehlhafer, left, Steve Stier and Dale Williams stand alongside the store’s delivery vehicle. PHOTO BY DON MANLEY

By Don Manley

Auto parts and auto repair are a family affair for the Fehlhafers.

Brian and Cindy Fehlhafer, the new owners of the NAPA Auto Parts store on Bald Eagle Drive, have a long history in the business back in their native Nebraska. They own two NAPA stores in the Lincoln, Ne. area, as well as a repair shop there that Brian Fehlhafer purchased from his grandfather in 1988 when he was just 19.

The son Matthew runs the repair shop now and the couple’s youngest children, Brogan and Felicity, who are in high school, help out there. Another son, Austin, works at an auto restoration shop in Lincoln.

“I guess you could say cars are just in their blood,” said Cindy Fehlhafer.

The couple purchased the Bald Eagle Drive store last summer from Rita Law of Marco and since then, they’ve increased its inventory, including marine-oriented parts. “We’ve also tried to bring better customer service and added a delivery truck, which the store never had before,” said Brian Fehlhafer. As for the future, the couple is focused on growing the store’s customer base “and continuing to improve customer service to Marco Island and the surrounding communities,” he added.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the store’s staff, with longtime employees Dale Williams and Steve Stier maintaining a presence behind the counter to serve customers.

The Fehlhafers split their time between Nebraska and Marco, but their attention on the store is a constant, with Brian Fehlhafer having daily contact with his staff when he’s out of town. “When I come down, I do whatever it takes to improve the inventory, to improving the layout in the store, to making deliveries,” he added.

They first came to Marco in 2012 to visit friends over Thanksgiving and like so many others, fell in love with the island. That visit led them to both buy a home here in February of 2013 and to begin contemplating how they could spend more time enjoying the community. Before the home purchase, Brian Fehlhafer and the couple’s sons were on a charter fishing trip when he mentioned to the captain that he owned NAPA stores back home. In turn, the captain informed him that the Marco store had been on the market, but had been withdrawn.

“My kids let me know that mom would be mad if I bought a NAPA store instead of a house,” said Brian.

Brian Fehlhafer told the couple’s realtor, Steve Lindburg of Anchor Real Estate on Marco, that he would be interested should the NAPA store become available again. When it returned to the market last year, purchase negotiations began and the rest is history.

The couple returns to Marco on a regular basis, but a permanent move could be in the offing. “Once we get all of our kids raised, that’s a possibility,” said Cindy Fehlhafer. Once we get them out of school, (warm) winters will look pretty appealing.”

The NAPA store is located at 815 Bald Eagle Drive, Suite 101. The phone number is 239-394-4735.

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