ELLSWORTH — On a recent Tuesday morning, the four Boles siblings gathered in an upstairs conference room at their Coastal Auto Parts NAPA store on the Downeast Highway.
The topic was the news that they had won the 2019 Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Top Drawer Award.
The award is given every year to “an outstanding individual, company or organization that has made a substantial contribution to the growth and development and improvement to our city, county and/or state,” according to a press release from Chamber Executive Director Gretchen Wilson.
Coastal Auto Parts NAPA has grown from one store on High Street acquired by Fay Boles in 1981 to more than 25 locations and 270 employees, with growth showing no sign of slowing.
The business has deep ties to Ellsworth. Fay, who started the business with his stepfather, Buster Harding, graduated from Ellsworth High School. So did his wife, Patricia Morrison Boles, and all four of their children.
Family businesses are increasingly rare, said Michael Boles, which makes this one unusual. All of the siblings—Michael, Matt, Christopher and Marcia (who now is Marcia Boles Jude) — once entertained other career paths.
“After high school I was going to be a tax attorney,” said Michael. But all eventually returned to their hometown and the family business.
So how is it, working as a family? “It’s got its pros and cons. Job security is pretty good,” said Michael, smiling.
Do they ever disagree? “Oh, constantly,” Michael laughed. But, he added, “We always have each others’ backs.”
Both parents are still involved in the business, although they take a two-month vacation in Florida each year for the start of baseball training season, always returning with memorabilia and signed photographs, which adorn the walls of the office.
“Our roles have kind of evolved to what’s needed at the time,” said Matt. “We’re expanding all the time.”
“NAPA owns the supply chain and we buy from them,” said Matt. But the company is different from traditional franchises in that individual stores can purchase from outside the NAPA supply chain if they see a product they like.
“We have flexibility, some control over our own pricing,” Michael added. “I don’t know of very many industries that work that way.”
Today Coastal Auto Parts has stores as far east as Machias, as far north as Caribou and as far south as Auburn. They are on track to acquire another store in April, having brought four under the Coastal Auto Parts umbrella in 2018.
“We’ve grown so fast,” said Michael. “I think we are every other store owners’ retirement plan.”
But they did not do it alone. “Several people have helped shape the company to what it is today,” according to the press release from the Chamber.
The list includes Charlie Harding, Fay’s brother and longtime salesman for the company; the Jellison Family: Lynn, Edward, Scott and Bo, along with Rick Trombley, who has worked for Coastal Auto Parts since 1981, and has done everything from counter sales, manage a store, and his current role as head of purchasing. Ken Welch a longtime general manager for NAPA, has served as a mentor and great partner to Coastal Auto Parts.
“Burt McNally,” the release continued, “has been instrumental in Coastal’s recent growth.”
The company has been heavily involved in youth sports and other area activities.
Fay was instrumental in the beginnings of the Ellsworth Football League, where he serves as president. Michael volunteers coaching youth sports. Marcia has served on the Ellsworth School Board and is an advisor for the Rainbow Girls local assembly.
Coastal Auto Parts has also been involved in the Autumn Gold Car Show for many years, including the title sponsor the past several years. Matthew Boles also served on the Chamber Board of Directors.
Coastal will be presented with the award, a locally crafted, custom-designed chest, at the Chamber’s annual awards dinner on May 16, at a location to be announced.