Brothers Explore New Territory
The Chanthakhammy brothers (K.C., Ray & C.) cater to Asian-speaking clients, creating a unique niche in Minnesota.
PHOTO: YUPPYPHOTO, LLC
As part of the auto repair industry, C. Chanthakhammy and his brother Ray Chanthakhammy patronized their share of auto recycling facilities. Over the years, they discovered that many of those facilities catered to Spanish-speaking customers, but not to an Asian-speaking clientele.
"As a mechanic for 15 years, I'd go into a yard and see an Asian guy who couldn't speak English well, unable to explain himself, but knowing what he wants," explained C. "Because I'm bilingual, I thought I could start something; be a bridge for this guy and his communication issue. It would benefit people of Asian descent trying to get good used auto parts."
C. and Ray both knew of Asian-owned collision and repair facilities, but not auto recycling facilities. The brothers took a chance and decided to open a facility to fill the Asian-speaking community's need for quality, used auto parts. They bought 1.25 acres of land in Rockville, Minn. and put up a building. An investor, older brother K.C. Chanthakhammy, invested the capital needed to open the doors. With K.C.'s cash, the brothers bought 16 foreign vehicles, a Hollander Powerlink 2 system and a Car-Part.com subscription.
K & C Foreign Auto Parts, LLC (KAndCForeignAuto.com) opened in September 2011.
"The timing [of opening the business] had to do with a lot of things, but mainly our desire and our urgency. It was now or never," C. declared. "We didn't look at it like, ‘Let's take our time.' We understood this business."
Between C., Ray, K.C. (who works part-time) and the company's dismantler, the four can speak most of Southeast Asia's languages - Cambodian, Laotian, Thai and Vietnamese. The brothers are originally from Laos - they came to the United States 13 years ago - and C. explained the language is close to Thai. C. learned Cambodian from his fiancée and the dismantler speaks Vietnamese.
K & C Foreign Auto Parts primarily sells its parts online through its eBay store and web site. The business ships daily, including overseas to non-Asian speaking countries like Great Britain and Argentina.
"We identify our core customer as Asian-speaking, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to take money from everyone," C. joked. "Actually, a lot of our customers aren't Asian, but they drive foreign vehicles."
Both C. and Ray have a background in the mechanical repair field. Ray also worked for a couple of other auto recycling facilities.
"We have good chemistry," said C. "He's got a mechanical mind and I've got a mechanical mind. He knows [information technology] and I bring a lot of fabrication stuff to the table."
The brothers' sales have grown each month since they opened. C. predicted a large warehouse will be built and shipping doubled by this summer. He also believes
K & C Foreign Auto Parts won't be the only Asian-speaking facility in the area for long.
"It's inevitable," he said. "I'm already seeing Spanish-speaking and African-speaking facilities. I'm seeing it in every culture."