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Friday, 06 March 2020 16:44

Longtime Dealership Parts Director Retiring After Building a Powerhouse Department

Written by Abby Andrews
Rick Stewart, right, parts director at Commonwealth Dodge in Louisville, KY, for 37 years, is contemplating retirement. Howard Kearschner, left, general manager, is not so sure about that. Rick Stewart, right, parts director at Commonwealth Dodge in Louisville, KY, for 37 years, is contemplating retirement. Howard Kearschner, left, general manager, is not so sure about that. Aaron Poole

Index

In 1970, Rick Stewart was a recent high school graduate who took a job as a parts delivery driver for a local Ford dealership, thinking it was a temporary gig.

Instead, Stewart climbed the ranks and now, five decades later, he is the parts director for Commonwealth Dodge in Louisville, KY, just now contemplating leaving the parts department---if his boss will let him.
 
“He can’t retire, because he can’t be replaced,” said Howard Kearschner, general manager of Commonwealth Dodge.
 
Since Stewart was named the dealership’s parts director in January 1983, he built it up from a two-employee operation with $40,000 in inventory to one boasting 22 employees and $1 million in inventory.
 
That growth was largely spurred by Stewart’s idea to expand the dealership’s parts inventory to enable it to sell wholesale to local collision repair shops.
 
Stewart said he worked with wholesale customers in his previous job before joining Commonwealth, and knew he had the experience and contacts to make it work.
 
“They really believed in me,” Stewart said of the dealership’s management team. “They trusted me, and helped me increase the inventory. They knew I was enthusiastic and had the contacts.”
 
That trust turned out to be well-placed; the dealership’s parts department is now the largest supplier of Mopar parts in the tri-state area, and No. 17 in the U.S.
 
“It was Rick’s idea; he took the ball and ran,” Kearschner said.
 
Stewart said the key is building relationships with body shop owners, who have the same goal he does---to take care of customers.
 
“Our (dealership’s) slogan some years back was ‘We put ourselves in your shoes,’” Stewart said.
 
Stewart said his favorite part of his career is the people he has met and worked with over the years.

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