By Carter E. Anthony
Brior Auto Parts
Brior Auto Parts was started by a Mr. Briggs and Mr. John S. Orme, Sr. Sometime after the founding, Mr. Briggs pulled out and Mr. John became the sole proprietor.
Mr. John was a member of the “Greatest Generation” and he had experienced all of the ups and downs of the depression, World War II and the slow recovery of the U.S. He was a good boss but he was all business most of the time.
In the auto parts catalog there were a myriad of parts because of all of the cars and trucks on the road. The parts catalog amounted to the size of 8-10 Sears’s catalogs. There was a parts catalog on each end of the counter.
One of the positive things that struck me about Mr. John was that if he didn’t know something or couldn’t find something in the catalog he, the boss, did not mind turning to one of the younger guys for help.
The store was located at the west end of the block which started with Capps Drugstore in what is now Williamson and Williamson, Attorneys. If you were driving in from the east side of Greenville it was easy to go around the courthouse and find a parking place on Commerce Street or on the side street between Brior and Dunklin Hardware.
Just as easily, you could go around the block to Cedar Street and be headed east back to your shop in a few minutes. As were most in Greenville, it had a glass storefront. A good guess is that the store was 25’ wide and 100’ deep.
At the front of the store were many commercially available auto accessories such as windshield wiper blades, washer fluid, car waxes, gas cans, things that you could get almost anywhere. Paint was also mixed there in front so that the customer could be involved.
During my second summer there, Mr. John acquired a Weatherhead machine that would make hydraulic hoses. It was the only one in town and he placed it in the front window for all to see. Farming and forestry equipment used a lot of hydraulic hoses and in the past if you needed one it had to be ordered.
With Brior’s Weatherhead machine a customer could replace a broken hose in 15-30 minutes. The logging companies were there often to replace hydraulic hoses. I have no idea what it cost but Mr. John was the only one authorized to use it. Must have been expensive!
About 20 feet inside the door was the big counter where the parts catalogs were located. Behind the counter were shelves and shelves of auto parts from the floor up to six feet tall.
In the back behind a wall that separated Mr. John’s desk and the pot-bellied stove was the machine shop where crankshafts and cams could be turned, pistons ground and rusted out old engines and parts cleaned in the vat.
Above the shop on a shelf were rows and rows of tailpipes none of which anyone ever wanted to look for. I often wondered about the dollar value of the inventory because it was extensive.
I also often wondered about three auto parts stores, Brior, Lewis, and Speed, within a block of each other and then Charles Colquitt opened a new store for Taylor Auto Parts near what was then the A & P.
Don’t forget all of the auto dealerships had their own dealer parts. Just how many parts stores can a city the size of Greenville support?
Is there a statistic that says one city should have ??? number of auto parts stores per ??? number of cars? There are such statistics on other businesses.
Mr. John had an office not unlike Mr. George McCrory’s in the back of the store which included a desk top and shelves underneath.
Mr. George had a desk with drawers in a half enclosed area and Mr. John was simply behind some shelves stacked with auto parts. The bosses of that era kept their personal overhead low. Mr. John spent most of the day at his desk except for the 10 a.m. Coke break with employees and the 2 p.m. call from the Genuine Parts NAPA (National Automotive Parts Association) warehouse in Birmingham.
Seldom did I see anyone venture back to Mr. John’s desk and disturb him. That area was sort of off-limits to the rest of us. Mr. John was obviously a good businessman.
He did not join any of the service clubs, my dad tried for years to get him to join Rotary, but his was one of the largest pledges to the First Methodist Church each year. Like Mr. George, he also supported any and all city and school activities.