Woonsocket Salvage Yard Uses RISBDC to Organize Finances, Develop Marketing Strategy

Privilege Auto Parts is growing into one of Rhode Island’s top salvage yards. However, it has taken a lot of reorganization, financial support and hard work to keep it going strong.

In 2000, brothers-in-law Doug Fleurant and Dwayne Disautell were on the hunt to find a business opportunity with promise. At the time, Doug’s brother, Denis Fleurant, was also considering entrepreneurship.  Dwayne worked at a body shop and noticed an increased demand for used car parts resulting in a strong profit margin. When a salvage yard in Woonsocket was put up for sale, the three men jumped at the chance to take it on.

Despite the challenges of securing financing and dealing with an antiquated inventory tracking system, the salvage business started to grow.  Today, Privilege Auto Parts, located in Woonsocket, boasts a large inventory of used cars and parts. The company has implemented a national locating computer software service for car parts enabling stock inventory to be sold nationwide. It is considered a Woonsocket landmark with a great reputation.

When the three men first purchased the company, they quickly realized the previous owner had never used a computer for accounting, customer management or – the obvious – keeping track of inventory. “That was the biggest challenge along with learning a whole new industry,” says Doug Fleurant, who had never worked in the auto business. “Our computer system helped. It not only tracks our inventory, but we can sell parts all over the country. I just made a sale to Nebraska. We can also help customers locate hard-to-find parts nationwide.”

Although the Privilege Auto Parts is a well-organized salvage yard, it still must buy inventory to keep its client base growing. In 2010, the economic downturn and subsequent loss of financing led to a decrease in sales for the business until BankRhode Island approved refinancing. “Thanks to financing we were able to buy inventory and keep our business going strong,” says Doug Fleurant.

Doug Jobling, Northern Rhode Island Regional Director for the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center, contacted the company as part of an overall outreach campaign in Woonsocket.  He was particularly interested in supporting Privilege and similar companies that have been part of the economic backbone of the city for so long.  After meeting with the owners he worked with them to develop a plan of action that included overall assessment of the company’s financial position.

Once financing was in place, RISBDC consultant Peter Girouard recommended that they expand their marketing budget to reach a variety of new customers through different media.  A restructuring and ability to cross-promote their parts with other dealers nationwide has enabled the Privilege Auto Parts business to prosper.

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