E.P. Arnold, who saw a future in the automobile parts industry, started Arnold Motor Supply in 1927. As he watched the popularity of the automobile increase, he knew that replacement parts would be needed.
Although he did not know much about automobiles, Mr. Arnold built a box for the back of a 1927 Chevrolet, and some mechanic friends helped him select about $65 worth of parts that garages would need. He tacked up a price list and traveled town to town in Northwest Iowa. Thus, with $300 savings and a $200 loan, our company was born. In 1929, Mr. Arnold expanded the operation by purchasing a piston grinder. In 1931, he opened the first branch auto parts store in Marshall, Minnesota with Paul Byers as his first partner and branch manager. In that same year, the Spencer fire destroyed the original store. Despite advice from bankers and warning of the shaky retail environment Mr. Arnold opened his third store in Sheldon in 1932. From the beginning, Mr. Arnold believed that people would work harder as owners than employees. With this belief he built the business to ten stores and ten partners over the next twenty years.
In the early 1950’s, competition was keen. The unique pay structure that Mr. Arnold had developed meant he was able to recruit top people. As competitors tried to hire away his valuable employees, Mr. Arnold decided to take his partnership program which had worked well with store managers, and extend it to include twenty of his top sales and shop people. To attest to the foresight of Mr. Arnold, many of his original formulas and pay-plans are still in use today. His philosophy is reflected in his statement, “ You build a business with people, not with buildings of brick and stone...”.
In 1960, Mr. Arnold built the auto parts warehouse in Spencer and named it The Merrill Company after his son, Merrill Arnold. In the beginning, The Merrill Company sold only to Arnold Motor Supply stores. They now supply company-owned and independent stores throughout the five states they serve.
By 1966 we had grown to include thirteen stores and the warehouse. In that year, Mr. Arnold opened the partnership to all employees. Recognizing the opportunity ownership presented, everyone joined. Today our partners include many second and third generation owners. When an employee is invited to join the partnership, their minimum investment is just $500, which was all that Mr. Arnold had when he started the company.
Growth continued through the 1970’s. When we joined the Auto Value group in May of 1983 our store count was at twenty. When the partnership purchased Automotive Paint and Equipment, a stand-alone paint and body supply store in Illinois in 1996 we had thirty three stores. In 1999, Specialty Sales, an automotive parts distributor in Omaha, Nebraska, and their 10 stores were purchased. These stores took on the Auto Value identity. In June of 2003, the Arnold Motor Supply store count grew with the addition of a store in Milford, Iowa. That same year, we opened the Undercar Division in Omaha that services independent and program group installers that specialize in undercar repair and maintenance. In 2006, we opened another Auto Parts Warehouse (APW) in Rock Island, IL.
The goal of The Arnold Group of Companies is built upon the concept of increasing sales and profits through training, marketing, and improving operational efficiencies. Because people still buy from people, we strive to set our team apart from those of our competition. We continually make an investment in our people so that they are the best that they can be. The founder of our company, E.P. Arnold, was fond of stating that you build a business with people, not with bricks and mortar. This attitude is a tenet of our constitution on customer service. Since people are vital to our organization and our continued success, we feel our future should be heralded as one that sets a new course. Together our products and people touch the world.