Veteran Competitors Join Forces at Auto Sports Center

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

Steve Haynes has prowled the aisles and fielded phone calls at Auto Sports Center in North Little Rock for less than two months.

But the 61-year-old businessman is far from a newbie to the world of high-performance auto parts and accessories.

Haynes joined Leonard Lamia, 63, owner of Auto Sports Center, after he closed his own business in southwest Little Rock and sold the Steve’s Speed Shop property last year.

“We’ve been having fun ever since Steve came over,” said Lamia, who got in the business in 1982.

“And we’re just getting started,” said Haynes, who opened his store in 1971.

The two retailers-racing enthusiasts have known each other for years as friendly competitors, buying merchandise from each other and even referring customers to each other.

After striking a deal to sell his property, Haynes was able to liquidate his inventory during the three months leading up to the closing. On Dec. 1, he had a new work address at Auto Sports Center but retained his long-time Steve’s Speed Shop phone number, which rolls calls over to Lamia’s store.

The assimilation of two customer bases under one overhead includes stocking new inventory that Steve’s Speed Shop clients expect to find. Blending two businesses into one could lead to the formation of a new company in the months ahead.

“It’s kind of like putting a new race car together,” Haynes said. “We know it ought to work. But now we have it on the race track to see how it works.”

They began discussing the idea of joining forces about five years ago, as the two battled rough pricing competition from Internet vendors and struggled to find reliable help who knew and understood the speed shop business or were willing to learn.

“I was about ready to quit and retire, and he was frustrated, too,” Haynes said.

“We have fought this until the end,” said Lamia, pausing to chuckle. “We weren’t smart enough to get out of the business when we could.”



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