New home, new opportunities for southwestern Illinois Stone Wheel warehouse

Fairview Heights, Ill.—After some 15 years in nearby Collinsville, Stone Wheel has relocated its southwestern Illinois warehouse to a facility in Fairview Heights within blocks of busy Illinois 159 and its equally busy intersection with Interstate 64.

The new Fairview Heights warehouse is one of 17 in the Stone Wheel family, a distributor of undercar and underhood repair parts. Founded in 1912, and with headquarters in Willowbrook, Ill., the family-run company serves some 3,500 independent service centers throughout the Midwest. As a member of the national Pronto association, which merged recently with Federated, Stone Wheel offers a variety of services to its customers, including training, marketing and advertising assistance.

“We found this location in January,” said Steve Matz, general manager for Stone Wheel. “The landlord allowed us to do everything we needed to renovate the facility. It was a long ordeal, the amount of work we put into this, but we feel like we’re better off for it, because Fairview Heights is a great market.”

New location offers same on-time delivery, quality lines

The new facility’s business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Matz said. He and his employees pride themselves on having most orders delivered within a 45-minute timeframe, Matz added.

He also said that the move has not altered Stone Wheel’s commitment to offering a range of choices and product lines for its southwestern Illinois customers, from name brands such as ACDelco, Wagner, and Walker to generic and budget brands, whether in brakes and suspension parts, or across the board.

What Stone Wheel carries is determined by customer needs, Matz said. “We have a host of, for example, brake pads. We have a number of different brake lines, from premium lines to the low-dollar lines,” he said, “but since we do repeat business all the time, it’s important for us to have a quality line. So if we have only one line in a category, we want it to be a quality line that customers can trust and has name recognition and warranty backup.”

In this day and age, it’s also important that a parts vendor supply technical support and offer an array of applications due to parts proliferation, Matz said. Regarding the merger between Pronto and Federated last December, Matz said he believes it will increase the market share of the new organization. Because of increased buying power, it should also improve the leverage of the new company when it comes to buying parts, he added.

Regardless of his warehouse’s location, the prompt delivery of quality parts remains a priority for his customers, and therefore for himself and his staff, Matz said. Many customers —“75 to 80 percent” — order online, but whether through an online order or by telephone, customers can take advantage of Stone Wheel’s hot-shot service, Matz said

‘Long ordeal’ completed through perseverance

The “long ordeal” was not the relocation to the new warehouse or the renovation Matz oversaw to make it ready for Stone Wheel. Rather, it was all that came before the negotiations with the new landlord and the physical move, Matz said, adding that moving the southwestern Illinois Stone Wheel warehouse to Fairview Heights was a project that, as it turned out, stretched over three years.

“In January of 2012 we got a letter from the City of Collinsville informing us that they’d purchased the land our warehouse was on,” Matz said. “And they basically said, ‘We’re going to pay for you to move, and here’s some locations to look at. Let us know what we need to do to expedite this deal.’”

At the time, it all seemed well and good, Matz said. Stone Wheel’s Collinsville landlord, with whom Stone Wheel had a long-term lease, had sold the property to the city, which wanted to convert the warehouse and an adjacent apartment building into a park as part of a downtown revitalization plan. Still, the city was anxious to retain Stone Wheel as a part of the community, Matz said, and one of the locations suggested by the city for a new warehouse seemed like the perfect site, one with easy access to local Interstate highways and one that met Stone Wheel’s needs.

“We were ready to pull the trigger,” Matz said about the new location, “and all of a sudden the City of Collinsville comes back and says, ‘Whoops, we made a mistake. You’re not retail. You have to be retail to be in this location.’”

What ensued, Matz said, was a long series of negotiations with the city. “They did everything they could to keep us out of there. It was frustrating to the landlord because he has a tenant that wanted to move in, he’s got space, but the city won’t let us move in.”

All’s well that end’s well

In the end, the city prevailed, Matz said, but Stone Wheel eventually found its new site.

From its new Fairview Heights location, Stone Wheel continues to serve southwestern Illinois customers in an area bounded roughly by Edwardsville on the north, Belleville on the south, Shiloh on the east and the Mississippi River on the west, Matz said.

“We looked at a lot of places buried in industrial parks, but this location had the convenience of being close to the Interstate and has a good customer base,” he said.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.