By Susan Bradley
A mid-life decision to switch careers brought Michelle Gregory home to her roots, a family-run automotive store in Musquodoboit Harbour on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. “It’s a bit of an interesting background. The store was started by my mum and dad. It was actually called Cox Home and Auto in the early 70s. My parents ran the shop,” Gregory says. The business, M.A. Cox Enterprises Limited, is a thriving NAPA Auto Parts associate store. Sadly, both of Gregory’s parents passed away about four years ago, within months of each other. “At that stage I made the decision – my father and I had talked prior to that –to take over the administrative end of things. We’ve had an amazing staff here for years. Our manager and assistant manager can pretty much run the shop blindfolded. So I’ve had really good support,” she says.
Previously, Gregory worked in the administration office of Saint Mary’s University for 28 years. For the first year of her involvement in the family business, she worked both jobs. Three years ago, Gregory decided to take early retirement from her university career – by then she was the manager of financial aid and awards at the Halifax university – and devote her time to the store, located at 7939 Highway 7. “It’s probably one of the best decisions I made in a very long time,” she says. Living in Lake Echo, Gregory no longer faces a lengthy commute across the harbour to Halifax and now has a flexible work schedule, works with a great team “and I get to be in the neighbourhood where I grew up.”
In addition to the financial management of the business, Gregory is now out doing deliveries, working on the counter and taking part in all aspects of the automotive supply business. “We’ve got such a great customer base. They’re just really down to earth, there’s no fuss and bother.” Her customers consist of auto garages and repair, walk-in retail – “a lot of backyard mechanics,” and cottagers for lawn mowers and items for fixing boats. “We have a really good marine customer base, so we make sure to carry a lot of marine supplies for them.” Being connected to the NAPA Auto Parts network means the business has access NAPA’s many programs and huge inventory of quality auto parts.
The business gets its orders from NAPA’s centrally located Moncton, N.B., warehouse on a daily basis, from Monday to Friday.
“But we have the luck to be associated with so many other NAPA stores, if there’s a particular part that one of our garages or customers need, we can bring it in from another store in the metro area, to get it to our customers,” Gregory says. “It is a really cohesive relationship and we’ll do the same, it is share and share alike.” Being a NAPA associate store has many benefits, she says. “The quality of the products, the support and ease of delivery is crucial.”
Gregory doesn’t find that being a female in a typically male industry has been an impediment. Her manager and assistant manager are brother and sister, who’ve worked in the store for decades. They are both equally respected for their expertise, Gregory says. “We have two other employees who are both female. Our manager is the only male. It is an interesting balance that you don’t often see in auto parts.”
Now in her mid-50s, she is happy she made the switch from a fulfilling university career to running the NAPA auto parts store.
“The only way I could have made the transition that I did was due to the support of my family. Having the staff that I have here made it a no-brainer. I am just incredibly lucky,” Gregory says.