NAPA STORE MANAGER GREG FARRELL AND STAFF THRILLED TO WELCOME CUSTOMERS INTO SPARKLING NEW SHOP IN HEART OF ST. STEPHEN COMMUNITYBy Kristen Lipscombe
“He was a wrench turner, but he didn’t know much about the business side.”
NAPA St. Stephen store manager Greg Farrell recalled his father’s risky but ultimately rewarding decision in 1973 to go from running a single gas station in Woodstock, N.B. to taking ownership of four franchised auto parts stores across the province.
“He had good people around him,” he said of his father, George Farrell, who was approached by one of two original owners, Malcom Carter, ready to pass on his successful business to someone he trusted when it came time to retire.
The original business, Creighton-Carter, Ltd., had been started by Carter and his partner, Frederick Creighton, in 1932, starting with a small shop in Woodstock, where they worked on everything from cars to farm equipment but also served “as a sort of general store,” explained Farrell, which meant the shop also sold cars, televisions and various odds and ends for automotive and mechanical enthusiasts.
“He inherited some of the business, like staff that were there and stayed,” Farrell said of his father. “They kind of held his hand for the first number of years until he got on his feet and knew what he was doing.”
“It was a good move for him.” It was also a good move for the junior Farrell, who followed in his father’s footsteps and fell in love with the family business.
Farrell started working in his father’s shops, which at that time fell under the UPA banner, at age 13, “sweeping the floors and stocking the shelves after school, Friday nights, Saturdays, summer holidays – so it has been most of my life.”
“There was always the odd occasion when we didn’t agree,” Farrell said with a chuckle of spending 47 years working alongside his father.
“We butted heads a few times, but I enjoy the business. I enjoy working with the customers. I’ve always enjoyed working with the staff that we have. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that has rewards that you can feel every day for a job well done.”
Nevertheless, just like Creighton and Carter before them, there came a time when business decisions must be made, and in March 2019, the elder Farrell decided to liquidate the majority of his NAPA locations, including the original Woodstock head office and shops in Florenceville-Bristol, Nackawick and Perth-Andover, N.B.
NAPA St. Stephen, which had previously been located in McAdam, N.B., but moved to its new spot in the early 1980s, is now a corporately-owned store, a choice the Farrell family made as Greg, at age 60 himself, starts to edge closer to retirement.
But don’t let that fool you. Farrell won’t be staying away from the business he loves for too long. In fact, his idea of “retirement” is really more like semi-retirement, or perhaps even sort-of retirement, as when he’s ready, he’ll simply step down to assistant manager “so I can maybe have a day off!”
Farrell made the move from Woodstock to St. Stephen to run the relocated shop in summer 2002, not knowing what to expect of his new community.
“It’s a nice little town,” he said of St. Stephen, located about 180 kilometres south of his Woodstock hometown, right next to the Maine border.
“Moving here, to a new town, there was the challenge of building relationships with customers that you didn’t know yet,” Farrell said of the major life change for a born-and-bred Woodstock boy, “but I’d like to think that I’ve done a pretty good job.”
“One of the first things I noticed when I moved here, even though I didn’t really know anyone outside the people I worked with, was that I could be thinking about crossing the street downtown and people would stop their cars when I was just thinking about it!”
“People here are very friendly, and when there is a crisis, like say, a house fire or something like that, everyone seems to be right there to help people. So I have landed in a very good community.”
“I mean, I have customers even invite me out!” Farrell added of quickly making new friends.“
‘Oh, we’re going to have a skating party at the pond; were going to the hunting camp out on the weekend and we’re going to sit around and tell stories, so come on out!’
” Farrell even found his true love in St Stephen; the not workrelated kind. He met his wife in his new town.
“My wife, I had her car out to one of my customer’s shops for an inspection and an oil change,” Farrell explained. “When my wife went to pick it up and she was going to pay the bill and the owner’s wife, she does the booking and the bill and things, and she said ‘oh no, we’re not going to charge you for this or that because Greg has always treated us very fairly.”
“And you know, I do try,” Farrell said. “I try to treat everyone fairly and be honest and if you make a mistake, just say you made a mistake, I forgot to do this – and fix it. Most people will at least appreciate your honesty.”
Finding fair and honest fixes for customers seems to be Farrell’s speciality, again taking after his father, as after almost 40 years in a rented downtown St. Stephen building, he moved the town’s staple NAPA shop from an aging brick building to a sparkling new location just down the street.
“NAPA had a crew of people who had done this before and when they moved from the old location, they didn’t just throw it all into the boxes, they did it in an organized fashion,” Farrell said. “So when they brought it into the new store, it was almost still all in numerical order. They did a very good job.”
New amenities at NAPA St. Stephen include “a huge parking lot” with upwards of 50 spots, “a nice loading dock” with proper height, everything located on one accessible level and “a beautiful, bright, clean store.”
“NAPA, as far as I’m concerned, spared no expense – beautiful lighting, finished floors, high ceilings.”
The new St. Stephen NAPA will continue all of its previous services, which include sourcing auto parts, mixing paint and a little bit of everything in between, most importantly, leading with integrity and treating customers with respect.
For Farrell, the new shop feels like “being home again.” He hopes customers feel the same warm welcome when they walk into the shop for service.
“Come on in and check us out,” he said, “and stay tuned for the grand opening!”
“All of my staff; if they can’t figure out what the customer needs, they’ll ask me,” Farrell said. “If we can help them, we will.”
But the best part of his work day isn’t managing; it’s being on the floor himself interacting with customers.
“Whether they’re people walking in, phoning in or the big shop customers,” Farrell said. “I just like dealing with people… in a meaningful way.”