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Executive Interviews

Executive Interview: Corey Bartlett, President & CEO, Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH)

Corey is the President and CEO of Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH) in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. He is the third-generation to be involved in the business. APH operates 125 corporate stores and 36 independent locations across Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan and Montana.

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Corey is the President and CEO of Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH) in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. He is the third-generation to be involved in the business. APH operates 125 corporate stores and 36 independent locations across Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan and Montana.


As an Alliance shareholder and member of the Board of Directors, what are the key advantages for shops that partner with Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper as their parts suppliers?

Alliance shareholders bring a lot to the party when we work with our repair shop partners. I think about our offering in four key areas: technology, premium products, marketing tools and, most importantly, superlative service.

Original Saint Cloud location, circa 1948. Jack Bartlett (eventual CEO and Corey’s grandfather) is in the middle with the light-colored coat.

Some further thoughts on those areas:
Technology: Shops today need state-of-the-art tools to streamline parts ordering, and make the process invisible for their customers. The Alliance has developed MyPlace4Parts to do just that and its growth has been really amazing. In short, it’s a Swiss Army knife of connected software tools (a license plate phone scanning app, under-the-hood tablet versions, etc.), and our customers love it.

Premium Products: While we support a variety of private label and entry-level categories, our focus is always on the premium products that our technician customers trust. Shops can’t afford comebacks, and we support the top-shelf manufacturers who understand that quality matters.

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Marketing Tools: Our Certified Service Center program provides a toolbox full of business-building tools to help the most progressive shop owners market and grow their business. For those shops where the CSC program doesn’t fit, we offer a variety of tools to help them grow, too.

Superlative Service: I feel great about our technology, products and our marketing tools, and I believe they are world-class. And yet where we truly differentiate ourselves is with our service. Our business is built on knowledgeable, experienced, hardworking and dedicated team members who understand the industry, appreciate how we can help our customers succeed, and actually care! Our store professionals aren’t just ready to fill orders, they’re poised and excited to support our customers in every way.

APH presented more than $200,000 to WACOSA in 2018.


APH is very involved with giving back to organizations like WACOSA. Why is it so important for you as a company to get involved? Are you involved in any other cause marketing endeavors? Why a chili cook-off?

We work hard to be supportive of the communities where we do business — not just having a float in the local parade (although our charming and inflatable APH mascot, Fat Bottomed Earl, really enjoys parades) — but truly supporting the people and organizations that make the community successful. There are dozens of non-profits that we support (with our store teams and independent customers) throughout our territory. In Saint Cloud, one of the organizations we support is WACOSA, a program for adults with disabilities. This year, with the support of many supplier partners, we presented WACOSA with a check for $203,000, which they were delighted to receive. And, yes, I’m a big chili fan. We chose chili because even the most inept chef can whip-up a Crockpot of chili and feel good about his/her skills!

In addition to cause marketing, you have been a leader with the Auto Care Association Political Action Committee. Can you elaborate on your passion for this political cause?

I really love this industry, and I want to protect it for our customers, so they continue to have the opportunity to fix cars and we can continue to support their businesses. The Auto Care PAC is the tool we use to tell our story in D.C., and I’m proud that we’ve had a 10-times increase in PAC contributions over just a few years. Our focus is protecting the rights of independent repair shops across the country — access to diagnostic information is the key issue. There’s a strong lobbying effort to lock us out, but we can’t let that happen. The battle will never end, so I’m going to keep fighting to grow the PAC because the future of our industry depends on it. You can learn more by visiting autocareadvocacy.org.

Inside view of a shipping area at APH distribution center in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Growing up in the business, how has the automotive aftermarket and parts distribution changed for you over the years? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome? What does the market look like in the future?
Although our business is bigger and more complex, the game is pretty much the same. We need to help our shop partners take excellent care of their customers by getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, with no comebacks. We are focused on providing the highest level of service, which allows our shop customers to provide outstanding service to their customers.

I believe the market will continue to evolve and, as that happens, we need to make sure that independent repair shops maintain ready/easy access to diagnostic information and the best way to do that is continuing our efforts in Washington. I’m bullish on the future of the independent repair shop. Regardless of what type of vehicle (hybrid, diesel, electric) is on the road, vehicle owners will always want a trusted local shop to keep their cars running smoothly and safely.

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What do you enjoy most about your current position and working in the automotive aftermarket?
I enjoy all aspects of the business, but what brings me the most enjoyment is working with our team — they’re focused, thoughtful, competitive, and creative, and they really want to win. Not every day is perfect, but being part of a winning team makes every day enjoyable.

APH’s store in Cambridge, Minnesota.

Throughout the years, you, along with APH, have won several industry awards. What has been your proudest moment in the industry?
We have been fortunate to receive some very nice and humbling awards, and those are always very cool. My proudest moment always comes when I receive a call from a customer who wants to tell me how one of our team members took excellent care of them, going above-and-beyond to find the part they needed to get the car off the hoist and getting their customer down the road to grandma’s house. Our service makes all the difference, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team who lives that mantra every day.

What was the last book you read?
I put up a Little Free Library at the end of the driveway last year, so I’ve become an amateur librarian and I enjoy keeping the library stocked with things that I think my neighbors should read. So, I’m glad you asked! I have four recommendations:

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The last book I read was “Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice.” Bill Browder’s book about his harrowing experiences of doing business in Russia. Fascinating and exciting.

The best book I’ve read this year was “Educated” by Tara Westover, a memoir where she recounts growing up in rural Idaho. It was incredibly well written and compelling.

The most enjoyable novel I’ve read this year was “Twisted Prey” by John Sandford. John is a hometown author, and the book was fun and engaging.

The most engaging work-related book I’ve read was “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Gratitude Changed My Life,” by John Kralik. This book has a wonderful message that’s important for any of us who at least occasionally deal with people.

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