ARNPRIOR – Alan Aumont and his brother Alvan have been operating Arnprior and Ottawa Auto Parts, affectionately known as A and O, for nearly 50 years as they prepare to pass the torch of the family business to the third generation within the next year.
Arnprior and Ottawa Auto Parts has been a community staple in West Carleton since 1967. That’s right, A and O is actually in West Carleton, just this side of the border with Renfrew County although it is probably more closely linked to the neighbouring Town of Arnprior (as it is in our placeline). Located on 20 acres on Old Highway 17 and the intersection of County Road 29, A and O has been the first choice for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) certified reconditioned and recycled automotive parts for Ottawa Valley consumers for 56 years.
In that time, it has always been owned by an Aumont.
Alan’s father Henry and mother Norah started the business with Stan Reid (of Reid Brothers in Arnprior) in 1967. Alan says his father was an entrepreneur from Timmins, ON. He was headed to Ottawa for a different job, but he and Reid got chatting, Reid had a wrecking yard, and an idea was born.
Alan and his brother joined the family business in 1970.
“We came right after high school,” Alan told West Carleton Online from his office last week (Oct. 18). “We’ve been here for 50 years. It’s hard to believe. I think it’s time to let go. We’re probably going to retire, but with a family business, you are always going to be around.”
In 1976, the brothers bought out Reid and officially took over the business from their dad.
Alan said they weren’t just handed the business.
“Our dad taught us everything we know,” Alan said. “But there were no breaks. He drove Cadillacs back then, and if he pointed at you to go for a ride, it wasn’t going to be a fun ride. We all got along really well. We’re lucky, a lot of family doesn’t want to stay in the business.”
The plan is Alan and Alvan will officially hand over the business to their sons Matt (Alan’s) and Nick (Alvan’s) sometime in 2024.
“We’ll pull away slowly,” Alan said. “But we are handing it off to the boys and they’re going to make the decisions and run the business. They’re good kids and we are happy they’re going to take over.”
It’s a multi-faceted business that involves purchasing, hands-on automotive work, and sales. A and O brings in 1,000 to 1,200 cars a year. They purchase them off insurers, primarily by auction. A and O’s purchasing department has to assess a vehicle, guestimate the value of the salvageable parts, win a competitive bidding process, and hope the resale value beats their purchasing costs, something they won’t know for roughly six months after the start of the process.
The vehicles being purchased are generally vehicles that have been written off by the insurer. Not necessarily destroyed, but the value of the vehicle is less than the cost to repair it to pristine shape.
“Later model, five or six-year-old vehicles are ideal,” Alan said.
That is the age range where used parts are in high demand, many are still on the road and parts are wanted by people looking to keep their repair costs down. In some cases, used parts are 50 per cent cheaper than new.
A and O takes the purchased vehicles to its disassembly shop. Each vehicle is drained in the shop’s wet room, which ensures there is no environmental damage due to leaks. The room is licensed and inspected every two years.
“We probably have the cleanest yard in Ontario,” Alan is proud to boast. “That’s just the way we do it.”
Alan says a productive vehicle can produce more than 100 items to be resold.
Once stripped, vehicles are “de-polluted,” and the scrap metal is placed in the yard. A and O sells the scrap metal once a year to clear the yard for the next year.
It’s a lot of work to produce recycled and reused auto parts, but Alan says the demand remains as it has for nearly 57 years.
With prices soaring as fast as inflation these days Alan says, “people are keeping their vehicles longer, I will say that.”
While Alan says he feels its time to move on, it was always a labour of love.
“I don’t even see it as a job,” Alan said. “I look forward to it every day. I can’t sit around; I have to be doing something.”
As the automotive industry seems to be at the very beginning of a major transition to electric, Alan says it’s not here yet. A and O has brought in three or for electric vehicles so far.
“We’re learning,” he said. “They’re very expensive and we have to find the market for them.”
Alan says one thing he and his brother will miss when they transition to their behind-the-scenes role, like all good salespeople, is the people.
“The thing I liked the most about the job was seeing the customers leave with a smile because they saved some money,” he said. “There are challenges. We’re using our experience. You learn from your mistakes. The challenge is taking that Lexus, putting that money out there, and looking back in six months to see if you made a profit. When you do make a bad buy, which I’ve done, you hope you don’t do it again.”
Those people also include the A and O staff.
“Some staff are coming up on 44 years with us,” Alan said. “We have a very dedicated staff.”
Alan says another challenge of running a family business is separating family and business.
“It’s challenging,” he said. “You have your home life, but I’m really good at shutting it off at 5 p.m. I don’t talk business on weekends or at family events.”
For more information on Arnprior and Ottawa Auto Parts, you can visit their website here.