SKOWHEGAN — When a new 7,000-square-foot Advance Auto Parts store opens in August on Madison Avenue, it will compete in a local market that already has four auto parts stores.

The competition, town officials said, will make the local auto parts market more customer-friendly.

“I think it’s going to make competition stronger, which hopefully will affect pricing,” said Skowhegan Town Manager John Doucette Jr., who managed the first VIP auto parts and tire store in Skowhegan in 1999.

Doucette said the VIP store remains in business, operating at the same location for almost 14 years. He said the local Napa Auto Parts franchise and Motor Supply Co. both are locally owned and are well known and well respected in the area, so the competition will be strong.

There also is Traction, a parts store for trucks and larger machinery, on Waterville Road.

“For the public, it’s a great thing,” said Jeff Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic and community development. “It gives them more options. There’s no question it’s making the market very tight for the businesses that are in, but that’s part of the American way.”

It’s not the first time a major chain has entered the automotive market in Skowhegan, Doucette said.

Doucette said before VIP was built, only Tire King was selling tires in Skowhegan. Then the Walmart store opened, selling tires; and since then, two other tire retailers have joined the market.

He said that, too, was good for business.

“All these tire companies came in. I think it made it competitive,” said.

Doucette said competition in auto parts also is likely to strengthen the customer-service aspect of the parts market.

Groundbreaking for the new Advance store began two weeks ago on two combined lots on Madison Avenue between Tim Hortons and Sherwin-Williams Co. Most recently, there was a farmhouse on the land. The second parcel was a vacant lot, said Walter Hight, who owns the property.

Advance Auto Parts has been in business for more than 75 years and has more than 3,400 stores nationwide, according to the company website. It remains the second-largest after-market retailer of auto parts in the United States.

VIP is based in Lewiston and has 56 stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

In December, VIP sold its auto parts business to O’Reilly Automotive Inc. for an undisclosed amount. VIP will continue to own and operate the tire and service departments, while O’Reilly will own the automotive parts sales and distribution operations.

O’Reilly Automotive was founded by the O’Reilly family in 1957. It operates 3,896 stores in 39 states, according to the report.

Napa — the National Automotive Parts Association — was created 85 years ago to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. It now has 6,000 locations nationwide, according to the Napa website.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]

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