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BY MIKE AVITT
In 2006, NAPA (National Automotive Parts Association) Auto Parts was located at 204 W. Madison in Mount Ayr but that would soon change. Let’s look at some auto parts store history.
Ringgold County first saw automobiles around 1905 and by 1910 there were many of them. Parts and repairs could be obtained at blacksmith shops, hardware stores, and, by 1910, auto garages. Tires had to be vulcanized and batteries had to be charged so specialty shops popped up. David Neptune was Mount Ayr’s first auto mechanic.
By the end of World War I, auto and farm implement dealerships, repair shops, hardware stores and blacksmith shops had auto parts and accessories on hand. But cars were becoming more complex and better equipped.
In 1936, Mrs. Bert St. John started a business called St. John Auto Supply with Merle Stephens as the manager. This would later become Lion Auto Store (1940). In 1943, Raymond and Rupert Johnston opened Johnston Home & Auto Supply at 122 W. Madison. Keith and Betty (Johnston) Cole would take over the business in 1954 and rename the store Cole’s Firestone.
Then came Underwood Auto Supply. With George Kidney as manager, Underwood, owned by Clifford and Fern Underwood, opened in June 1951 across the street of the old telephone office (approximately 102 E. Monroe). The business moved to 116 S. Taylor but I failed to find the date of that occurrence. Albert Bagley was the manager when I was a teenager. An ad in a September 1951 newspaper announces Underwood Auto is “Your N. A. P. A. Jobber.”
Lion Auto Store closed in 1971 and Western Auto opened in 1972. In December 1973, Hank Smith opened Mount Ayr Parts, Inc. with Gary Noble as manager, at 121 South Fillmore. Cole’s Firestone closed in July 1975.
Clifford Underwood died in 1973 and his widow Fern continued the operation with stores in Mount Ayr, Leon, and Osceola. In September 1985, Fern sold Underwood Auto Supply to Randall and Linda Andrew of Osceola. Now called Andrew Auto Supply, the business moved to the building in this week’s photo in December 1985.
In the meantime, Hank Smith built a new store at 109 W. Monroe and moved his auto parts store into the facility in November 1983.
On June 1, 1991, Bendell Corp. (Rick Bender and Karen Elliott Bender) bought Andrew Auto Supply and became NAPA Auto Parts. In December 2006, Bendell Corp. bought Hank’s Mount Ayr Parts and moved to 109 W. Monroe keeping the NAPA Auto Parts affiliation. As mentioned in the newspaper announcement, Rick was hired by Hank in 1977 to work in one of Hank’s auto parts stores in Des Moines!