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|Founded||Chicago, IL 1915|
|Products||Aftermarket Automotive Parts and Accessories|
|Parent||U.S. Auto Parts|
JC Whitney began its life in 1915 as The Warshawsky Company, a scrap metal yard on the South Side of Chicago. The company's founder was a Lithuanian immigrant named Israel Warshawsky. Throughout World War I, Israel bought failed auto manufacturers and added new parts to his inventory. The Warshawky Company continued to grow, even during the Great Depression. The company closed its Chicago location and opened a new location in LaSalle, Illinois, in 1997.
In 1934, Israel's son Roy joined his father at the company after graduating from the University of Chicago. Roy proposed expanding out from the Chicago-area with a nationwide catalog and placed an ad in Popular Mechanics for sixty dollars. The ad offered readers a "giant auto parts catalog" if they sent in twenty-five cents and response to the ad was huge.
Roy took charge after his father's death in 1943. He continued to grow the business through World War II, always developing new strategies in response to changing customer needs. Roy retired in 1991.
In the 50s & 60s (perhaps earlier too) Roy published 2 basic catalogs: Warshawsky & J C Whitney. J C Whitney was mailed to anyone that was a possible retail customer. Warshawsky was his "wholesale" catalog - it was mailed to Gas Stations & Auto Parts Stores - with cheaper prices, about 10% lower than J C Whitney.
Roy used to attend all the Automotive Trade Shows, accompanied by an entourage of his buyers (6-10 men). He would enter every booth and inquire about the product. He carried a portable voice recorder (very expensive & advanced for the day) and recorded everything. If he was interested, he would assign one of his buyers to stay in the booth and inquire/negotiate farther. If you struck a deal, this guy was usually your buyer and future contact.
During the late 60s and early 70s, he was a hard negotiator, particularly on price (if you had any competition and weren't the lowest priced, you probably wouldn't get any of his business). However, his business was wonderful to deal with - they gave you big orders and had 2 ways to PAY you: Regular 30 days and 5% discount right away. This was particularly attractive to small underfunded suppliers, which was probably the majority of his business - he PAID ON TIME. Apparently, this ended by the middle 70s, when things got tight for him, as they filed for Chapter 11 in 1979.
He never advertised Brands - so he had the ability to change suppliers instantly with no disruptions. Around 1972, I heard that he was negotiating with Edelbrock, with the requirement that he advertise the Edelbrock name in the catalogs, but I think that fell through.
On June 26, 2002, The Riverside Company acquired JC Whitney. In 2007, The Riverside Company created Whitney Automotive Group, which owns other companies such as CarParts.com, StylinTrucks.com, and AllBikeSupershop.com. On August 17, 2010, JCWhitney (along with the rest of Whitney Automotive Group) was acquired by U.S. Auto Parts for $27.5 million.
LaSalle, Illinois, location
The LaSalle, Illinois, facility contains both the public retail outlet center as well as the expansive distribution center. This facility is also affiliated with Carparts.com, Stylintrucks.com, Autopartswarehouse.com and USautoparts.com. Currently[when?], the company's customer service is being handled in the Philippines. The LaSalle call center and the Independence, Ohio call centers have both been closed. Parent company US Autoparts is[when?] also closing its Carson, California, distribution facility.