Ken’s Auto Parts supplies generations

Published 2:49 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Kenneth Oswalt opened his store, Ken’s Auto Parts on U.S. 31 in southern Pelham nearly 40 years ago, the stretch of highway looked much different than it does today.

In 1973, the store, which is at 3412 Pelham Parkway, sat across the road from the Pelham Church of Christ and the Oliver Street mobile home park. On each side of Oswalt’s business lay a pair of houses, miles of trees and little else.

“That was about the extent of it,” Oswalt said, noting customers told him the neighboring houses contained a barbecue joint and hair salon before Ken’s opened.

“There were no businesses at all up and down 31. Now, there are businesses back behind me, banks and buildings all up and down both sides of the road,” Oswalt added.

The city of Pelham was only 9 years old when Oswalt decided to seek help opening his own auto parts supply store in what was then a relatively rural area south of Birmingham.

“There was a warehouse in Birmingham that was putting people in the auto parts business, and they found a location and set me up down here,” Oswalt said. “Pelham has grown up since then.”

Walking through the front doors of the business reveals a store full of everything from mufflers to motor oil and nearly every other car-related part imaginable.

Oswalt said he has gained a loyal customer base over the years, and sells parts for a wide range of domestic and import vehicles. As Pelham’s population has grown exponentially over the past several decades, so too has Oswalt’s customer base, he said.

“I don’t really have anything to do with working on the cars or repairing them, I just sell all the parts people need to fix their cars,” Oswalt said. “I just try to stock as much as I can.”

Oswalt has played a major part in the day-to-day operations at the shop nearly every day since it was opened, and he said he has seen his sales increase with the area’s growth.

“It’s just the everyday grind of it. I try to stay consistent,” Oswalt said.

The locally owned auto parts store is open daily from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., and can be contacted at 663-2990.