Platteville’s NAPA store is celebrating its 35th year in business this week.
The store is in its second location at 475 E. Business 151, and its second owners.
“My mom and dad started the business in June of 1977, and they were the original mom and pop,” said Dave Izzard, the second-generation owner with his wife Toni. “NAPA offered to get you set up and it’s entirely up to you on how you want to run your own business. There are company [owned] stores, but most of the stores are mom and pop.”
The store moved to Business 151 from its original location on Chestnut Street, in what now is the UW–Platteville Rountree Commons parking lot.
The Izzards’ business has one characteristic similar to businesses that repair other things: “We typically see people, I don’t want to say at their worst, but they have a problem, they need something fixed, and it’s going to cost them money to fix.”
“I enjoy it because it’s something different every day,” said Toni Izzard. “It doesn’t stay the same. It changes a lot as far as the ups and downs, as far as the proliferation of parts you see, the age of vehicles — there’s just so many factors.”
Even though cars are getting increasingly complex and computer-controlled, Izzard said it’s an “illusion” that a car owner cannot fix a car.
“There’s still a lot of that that you can do yourself,” he said. “There is still a very large business market for that. Do-It-for-Me has probably grown some because of that, when people don’t want the headache; it’s gotten more complicated.
“For NAPA stores, a majority of our business is to repair facilities. We don’t do any repair work, and I don’t want to get into that business at all.”
“They used to say this business is recession-proof, because you’ve got to have your car,” said Toni. “That’s not true because in a recession people will put off repairs, and they’ll look for something a little less expensive until they get a little more money.”
The Izzards’ NAPA store has qualified for NAPA’s 5-Star Excellence Award six times in the past nine years. Izzard calls that “a nice acknowledgement from NAPA Milwaukee and the NAPA group getting up to speed for your customers.”
The Platteville NAPA store is the second the Izzard family has owned. Jack Izzard, Dave’s father, worked in Lake Mills, Iowa, for Deluxe Filters, part of Tenneco, when he and a coworker decided, while their families were camping at Wyalusing State Park, to go into business together.
“He was 42 and could pretty much see the handwriting on the wall,” said Dave. “They bring in a new management team, and even if you’re doing the job, they may have someone else they want to do the job.”
Jack and Audrey Izzard and their business partners opened a NAPA store in Mayville. That partnership lasted less than a year because, said Dave, “They had 180-degree views on how the business should be run. They agreed to be bought out, and my parents went to the NAPA Milwaukee warehouse where they bought their parts from” to seek another NAPA opportunity.
NAPA presented the Izzards with two options — a store in Columbus, or the store in Platteville, a spinoff of the Lancaster NAPA store. The Izzards bought the Platteville NAPA store in June 1977.
“They sold everything — their house — to get into that store,” said Dave. “They used their personal vehicle to deliver parts.”
Jack Izzard became known as “NAPA Jack” because he’d answer the phone “NAPA, Jack.”
“One thing my dad emphasized is try to avoid peaks and valleys — hit consistently and keep taking care of people,” said Dave.
Dave started working at the store in “grunt work” before “they were brave enough to let me answer the phones and wait on customers. I graduated from high school in 1980, and I never got around to going to school, so I went to the school of hard knocks and learned the business from my parents.”
Jack and Audrey Izzard retired in 1998, “and that’s when I convinced my wife — she was a loan officer at First National Bank — that we could go into business and she’d only have to work half days,” said Dave. “You know, 12 hours a day.”
At first, Toni Izzard refused to work the counter — “just the normal procedures of doing business.” Then came the day she had to work the store by herself due to a fire.
“I am very customer service-oriented, and I felt I was really over my head, and I felt if I was going to help customers I had to learn,” she said. She is now certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Within a year, Dave and Toni Izzard realized that growing the business required a new location.
“When my folks retired our goal was for more of a modern location,” said Dave, calling it “the second generation, much like a lot of family farms. The way business is done sometimes changes.”
The Izzards bought land on what then was U.S. 151 in 1999. The owner of Novus Windshield Repair was looking to expand his business too, so the Izzards sold part of the land for a new Novus store. The new NAPA store opened in July 2003.
The new, larger store sparked almost immediate growth in the business. The 5-Star Excellence Award requires growth in sales from the previous year.
“We got comments like ‘we’re happy to have a NAPA store in town,’ and we’ve been open since ’76,” said Dave.
The store has been closed fewer than five days it was scheduled to be open out of 35 years. The original NAPA store was closed Sundays, but the new store is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Izzards will get middle-of-the-night calls from an area highway department for plow repairs during winter storms.
As with any business, unusual things happen. One day, Dave Izzard took a call from someone asking for a master brake cylinder for a mid-1970s GM car. When Izzard replied that they had the part, the caller said he’d be right over. Proving he needed the part, the car stopped by hitting the concrete retaining wall in the parking lot.
The old location also got four-legged visitors when the back door was left open to cool off the building. In one case, a groundhog came in, ripped into a pallet full of floor-drying powder and made a nest.
Dave Izzard is Platteville’s fire chief. Given that the Platteville Fire Department is the busiest in Grant County, the fire department affects the business, and vice versa.
“It’s the people you have working for you, and that’s been the case over the years,” he said. “It’s like the Fire Department; you count on the team, and that’s the case here as well.”
The Izzards’ two children, Ben and Hilary, may be part of the third generation. Ben, like Dave, started working at the store at 14. Hilary has worked at the store, but she is now a student at UW–Oshkosh.
In addition to owning the store, Dave Izzard could be counted in the ranks of auto enthusiasts. He is the owner of a 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, in the slow process of restoration.
The Izzards have been approached about opening a second store.
“I can’t see us doing that ourselves,” said Dave. “Keeping it simple and doing what you can in the community — I’m concerned that you could lose what you do with serving your customers.”