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Ken-co Industries - Continues to change with the time after 35 years

By Lara LaFreniere/Editor - Auto Chronicle Newspaper

The year is 1963.  Lots of change is happening around the world.

Change was also in the works in the automotive aftermarket.  Companies that distribute automotive parts and supplies were about to get a wake up call.

Three men, Tom Kennedy, Bill Hawkins and Tom Halloran, were dissatisfied jobbers, unhappy with the service they were receiving from their current distributor.  Described as "rebels," the three banded together to create Ken-co Industries, a jobber based distributorship. 

The company's original concept was based on mobile distribution; each independently owned and operated.  After a number of years, as the company continued to grow, a move was made from the original Hamilton office to today's current building at 170 Heritage Rd. in Burlington.

"Uphill Climb"

Fast forward to 1988.  Steady development of the distributors-operated company lead to a big decision - a major share holder to act as President to control and continue Ken-co's wonderful growth into the millennium.

Enter Larry Minaker.  With Minaker's take over as President a little more than10 years ago, Ken-co Industries continued to improve services and product lines and increased their market share across the country.

"The last 10 years have been an uphill climb.  We had to bring the company out of the '70s and into the '80s before the '90s.  We did it," Minaker states.  "We have one of the more sophisticated computer systems in the industry.  We were the first to have computers on our trucks, which we did eight years ago."

Ken-co Industries has a straight forward mission statement to change with the times while maintaining their warehouse jobber and installer program.  They have met that mandate head on.  Ken-co now has 1,500 jobber customers across Canada, 800 in Ontario alone, from Thunder Bay to Cornwall to Windsor.

Secrets of Success

With a 10,000 plus SKU inventory on hand and unlimited products available from suppliers, Ken-co meets a turn-around time of same day shipping with 98 per cent accuracy.  "You can't sell from an empty shelf," claims Minaker.  "We carry a high volume, fast turn over inventory.  No paint supplies, no body parts.  We are not set up in a suitable manner to meet the needs in that market area."

One of their secrets to success is the proficient filling of back orders for competitors' clients.  The 17,000 square foot warehouse was expanded in '92 and a future addition of 5,000 square feet is currently in the planning.

Ken-co will need the space as their client base continues to grow.  Some of their biggest clients include federal, provincial and regional governments; national tire distributors and Quick Lube accounts.

The appeal of Ken-co Industries becomes apparent with a quick glance at their product line.  Many suppliers have been long-time supporters of the company, some going back to the very beginning.  "We carry recognizable products - not white boxed or private labels.  This way the customer knows what he's buying every time," Minaker explains.

Automotive, marine, snowmobile and industrial applications are covered by unique suppliers such as Bardhal.  Ken-co has been Ontario's major warehouse distributor of Bardhal chemical additives for 20 years.  They are also are one of the few distributors in Canada of Champ filters, EFI Plus, FMSI Brake and Perm-o-seal tire repair products.

The growth and prosperity of Ken-co is an advantage to their jobbers and distributors.  Real benefits are offered to Ken-co jobbers through a full distribution program including volume rebates, health packages, seminars and training through suppliers.  As Minaker points oust, another immeasurable benefit is "the affiliation with a 35-year-old company."

Leap of Faith

President Larry Minaker's background is peppered with the automotive industry.  "I've been involved with the automotive industry all my life," he says.  Starting in sales with Caterpillar, he later became director of operations at King-o-matic for a number of years.  He also was partner in a high performance machine shop and garage.

"When the opportunity came to buy into Ken-co, which was similar in operations to King-o-matic, I took a leap of faith and it turned out to be a good thing.  I came from a larger company to a much smaller one.  It was a learning experience.

It's been excellent, a lot of fun and a challenge.  We are in growth mode; we are four times as large as when I started and we will continue to grow.  We're ready for the next step."

Part of Ken-co's success can be attributed to the staff which functions as a team.  "I have very knowledgeable people on staff," says Minaker as he cites Ken Spragg, sales manager and account manager Patricia Wakeham who head up the team of 13 employees.

Those employees continue to take them to a higher level with their commitment to customer service; Ken-co prides itself on serving its clients to the best of their abilities.  "We are second to none in customer service," says Minaker.  "We are grateful the customer is there and will do anything reasonable to serve that customer."

To his jobbers and distributors, Minaker offers this advice.  "Quit trying to meet the price objections and go for quality and service.  There is too much discounting offered in the market.  Price doesn't dictate what line you carry - you want trouble free supplies and value for dollar.  You can stand behind products that you make a profit on."

In conclusion, Minaker says about Ken-co Industries, "We're the little guy but we know we're good and we need to get that out there."

To find an outlet near you call 1-800-263-4283 and customer service will direct you to a jobber in your area.  That toll free number will also help you receive more information about the Ken-co Industries jobber program.

Fast Facts on Ken-co Industries

1,500 jobbers in Canada

800 in Ontario

10,000 SKUs

17,000 square foot warehouse

98% shipping ratio

opened in 1963

President is Larry Minaker

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Ken-Co Industries, 1070 Heritage Road, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, L7L 4X9
Phone (905) 335-1828,   Fax (905) 335-1829,   Toll Free: 1-800-263-4283,   Email:
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