Susan Sangster takes pride in her two Bumper to Bumper stores in Elmsdale and Lower Sackville, nova scotiaBy Susan Bradley
Being a woman-led company in the automotive industry, long dominated by men, doesn’t faze Susan Sangster. Sangster owns two Bumper to Bumper stores, one in Elmsdale and the other in Lower Sackville. Bumper to Bumper is a Canadian auto parts distributor that has been in business for 50 years. Better known in western Canada, Bumper to Bumper is one of the country’s largest auto parts networks with 72,000 square meters of warehouse space in 160 stores and 4,000 affiliated mechanical shops.
“I like the name recognition, Uniselect is a big name, especially out west,” Sangster, 57, says. She says the top-quality product brand is gaining more recognition in the east. “It’s steady.” Home-grown success is a big part of its appeal. Bumper to Bumper – Sangster’s Automotive Supplies is involved in community events and sponsorship, Sangster says. She is a proponent of dedicated customer service and giving back to the community. “I have an excellent customer base. I am very fortunate. They are great people to deal with, that’s one of the better parts of my job, helping out people.” She says a “fair amount” of her customer base is women. “I think they don’t feel intimidated when they come in our store.”
Being friendly and genuine is the key, Sangster says. “You’ve just got to treat people the way you want to be treated.” There are 14 workers employed at the two stores. The Elmsdale location, about 5,000 square feet, services garages and mechanics in a 30-mile radius including Stewiacke and Kennetcook, while the Lower Sackville store, at approximately 2,000 square feet, takes care of businesses in about a 15-mile span. “Our customers are about 60 per cent garage and 40 per cent over the counter,” Sangster says. Sangster knows her stuff. She took over the family business from her father when he retired and has been at the helm of the stores for the past 27 years.
You might say the industry has been in her blood from the beginning.
She recalls as a youngster spending time with her dad while he ran the family’s store in Lower Sackville. “I trailed around after him just like a little puppy,” she recalls. “My father is one of my heroes, he took good care of me and I loved working with him.” She is one of the two women who works in the stores and also employs female delivery drivers. She would like to employ more women. But, as with many business owners in Nova Scotia, finding staff is an ongoing issue. “I’d like … to expand but I can’t find people to work. Automotive is probably not the best paying out there but also you don’t have to have the greatest education to be in the automotive industry. It helps if you know about cars and can work on a computer,” Sangster says.
She says she does pay commissions and bonuses to productive staff members. “If you’re good at what you do. That’s only fair because if I’m making money, they should be making money.” Sangster continues to be passionate about the industry and the people she serves. “I am very fortunate the community treats me so well. Life is good,” she says.
Bumper to Bumper – Sangster’s Automotive Supplies is located at 622 Hwy 2, Elmsdale, N.S. B2S 1C9 (902) 883-7040
Bumper to Bumper – Sangster’s Automotive Supplies is located at 668 Sackville Dr, Lower Sackville, N.S. B4C 2S5 (902) 864-5152.