by James Heffernan
A homegrown company is expanding its operations in Staunton — and reviving a local industrial building in the process.
Fisher Auto Parts, a founding member of Federated Auto Parts Distributors, has acquired a 259,000-square-foot warehouse complex abandoned by Unifi Inc., a North Carolina-based textile company, in 2008.
Once redeveloped, the site on Morris Mill Road will serve as the new Virginia warehouse for Fisher Auto Parts; the company’s corporate offices will expand and remain on Greenville Avenue.
The expansion will provide Fisher with space to support its growing customer base of parts installers and do-it-yourselfers. The company has seen substantial growth in the past few years — in excess of 20 percent annually, according to CEO Bo Fisher — as drivers have held on to their cars longer. With more than 2,500 employees in 360 locations across 15 states, Fisher is now the seventh-largest aftermarket auto supply company in the U.S.
“This new warehouse complex gives us the ability to better serve our existing store locations as well as new store openings planned in Central and Eastern Virginia and any acquisitions that may arise,” Fisher says.
Staunton Economic Development Director Bill Hamilton, who worked with Fisher Auto Parts to select and secure the property, says the stakes were high. “We understood that they needed to expand and that they weren’t limited to Staunton,” he says, citing the company’s distribution facilities in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. “We wanted to do everything we could to keep them here.”
The new complex will be modernized with environmentally friendly improvements such as energy-efficient lighting and material-handling equipment. There is also an 80,000-square-foot mezzanine level available. The new complex should be operational later this year.
As part of its expansion plans, the company has received approval from the Staunton City Council to add on to its Statler Crossing facility, a converted shopping center which at one time was home to Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and a Rack & Sack grocery store. The site now houses a Fisher Auto Parts store as well as Federated Auto Parts’ national distribution center.
“In the short term, they have all the space they need,” Hamilton says, “but if the company continues to grow as it has been, they will need more.”
Fisher Auto Parts employs about 280 people locally. Hamilton says the opening of the new Morris Mill location initially will mean about 30 new jobs.
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