Shipman Auto Marks 80 Years In Business
Owners Dan Shipman and Glen Knowlen are at the helm of Shipman Auto Parts.
PHOTO: CHRISTINA JOHNSON
In 1935, all 48 states were suffering the effects of the Great Depression. The United States had not yet entered World War II. And, the Brainerd Municipal Airport was still located on Henry Rosko’s airfield. This was also the year that Charley Shipman opened a used auto parts store in Brainerd, Minn., named Oak Street Auto Parts. In 80 years a lot has changed, but Charley Shipman’s store lives on.
Today, Oak Street Auto Parts is known as Shipman Auto Parts. The new name came when Charley’s sons, Marv and Dan Shipman, moved the business from its original Oak Street location to its current location at 1711 SE 13th Street (the old Rosko airport), in 1957.
So what does it take for a business to have the kind of staying power that Shipman Auto Parts has? According to Shipman’s current owners and good friends, Glen Knowlen and Charley Shipman’s grandson, Dan Shipman, it is all about the people they serve.
“In my opinion, it’s pretty much been customer service. We really take care of our customers and bend over backwards to make sure everyone is happy,” said Knowlen. “We’re consistent, hardworking and service oriented, and that’s true in most successful businesses,” Shipman pointed out. “We really try to take care of our customers.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Knowlen and Shipman have a great staff that has been with them for a long time. Knowlen stated, “All of our people have been here for many years. This is pretty important, because they know what to do. We can come and go, and everything just runs smooth.”
Since its first days as a used auto parts store, Shipman Auto Parts has transformed into a full-fledged, full-service auto recycling business that specializes in late-model cars and light trucks, both foreign and domestic. Additionally, in 1965, it became a Western Snow Plow distributor. “In the beginning, it was a little bit slower in the winter, so that was to help offset that. Dan’s dad and uncle got into it, and we’ve been doing it ever since.” Knowlen explained. “We sell a lot of snow plows every year.”
“We do sell new aftermarket parts also,” Shipman mentioned. “We stock quite a few of those,” Knowlen added, which is good, because one big game-changer since Shipman Auto Parts’ early days is the Internet.
Shipman Auto Parts offers nationwide shipping of parts thanks to today’s technology. “We’re on the Hollander computers now, and they’ve really helped on the Internet do a lot more shipping,” Shipman explained. Knowlen noted, “In today’s world, we believe the Internet is a key factor in any business. With websites such as HollanderParts.com, Car-Part.com, and eBay Motors, it is easy for anyone to search for a part anywhere in the world, so we strive to have a strong presence in all of them.”
The future looks bright for Shipman Auto Parts. Knowlen plans to retire in a few years, and a new generation of Shipmans (Shipman’s sons Luke and Adam) plan on taking the reins.
Knowlen explained that then next plan is to improve the front office and showroom to accommodate customers. “We have a tremendous amount of walk-in traffic, probably more than most yards,” he added.
Additionally, Knowlen mentioned the Internet will continue to play a role in Shipman Auto Parts’ success going forward. “In the future, our goal is to have pictures of every part on the Internet and to offer same-day shipping.”
The changing times have also introduced a completely new way for Shipman Auto Parts to serve its customers via social media. Knowlen noted, “We do have Facebook and Twitter accounts with a great following and growing. These websites are good promotional sites to assist in getting our name and contact information out. With that information, potential customers in need of a good quality used part can reach out to us, and we would be happy to assist them with those parts.”