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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

The Brockman family work together every day and have for the last 30 years.

They don’t fight and don’t stay mad at each other and they treat their customers like family.

“We’ve always tried to treat people fair, just like we want to be treated,” said Dave Brockman of the family-owned business, Dry Ridge Auto Parts.

That attention to detail and concern for customers is what earned Dave Brockman recognition for the 2011 Excellence in Business award given annually by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

Brockman, a resident of Southgate, worked for 10 years as a salesman for the warehouse that owned the auto parts store before he got his opportunity to purchase the business and 30 years later, it employs him, his wife, Rita, and sons, Greg and Gary.

Other employees include Ray Stull, a driver and mechanics Rick Howell and Willie McNay.

The business has always been in its present location on Main Street in Dry Ridge. About 15 years ago, the family added the garage, which allows them to sell the parts and then service the vehicle.

“We can sell the part to you at wholesale and then put it on your vehicle and it will still be a cheaper price than if you went somewhere else,” Dave said.

Dave said years ago Dry Ridge was home to five service stations, but after the last one closed that also had mechanics on duty, the Brockmans’ decided to expand their market.

“The community has changed quite a bit,” Dave said. “When we first came it was a quiet, small town, but now there’s more people.”

Customers have also changed.

“We used to be able to let people tell us they’d pay us in a week or two or wait until the farmers sold their tobacco to pay a bill,” he said.

Dry Ridge Auto Parts is the only independently owned auto parts store in the county and that’s a fact that Dave is proud of.

With the decline in farming and less tractors in the field, Dry Ridge Auto Parts doesn’t sell the tractor parts, oil and filters that it used to.

“There’s not that many farmers left, so we lost that business,” Dave said.

Dave’s career path might not have even traveled through Dry Ridge if a spinal cyst had not sidelined him from a baseball career.

He was a standout pitcher for Newport Catholic High School, where he went to the state tournament seven of 10 times. In 1954, his team known as the “Yankees of high school baseball” won the state title.

His left-handed pitching caught the eye of scouts and he was called up by a Class B team in Danville, Virginia. He attended spring training but back problems required surgery. While he was home healing, the ball club disbanded but he was given a second opportunity to play professional baseball when a team from St. Paul, Minn. came calling.

“It was too cold there,” he said with a laugh. “I guess you could say that cyst abruptly ended a short ball career.”
Dave is also a cancer survivor. He’s also had open heart and knee replacement surgery, but he doesn’t intend on retiring any time soon.

“We’ve got a condo in Florida and get down there a couple times a year, otherwise you’ll find me here,” he said, referring to the store.

Dave met his wife, Rita, when she was a cheerleader for Our Lady of Providence High School. They recently celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.

“We’ve learned it can’t be a one-way street,” she said.

“If it is, it’s probably going to fail,” he chimed in.

Dave understands that his business depends on knowing his customers and keeping them coming back.

“There’s a secret to being in business,” he said. “It’s catering to your local people to keep them coming back.”

“We can’t say enough about our loyal customers,” said Greg Brockman.

“Treating people right is how we built the business and how we plan to keep on operating,” said Gary.

Both Gary and Greg live in Dry Ridge. They grew up around engines and said it was only natural to join the family business. Greg was working at the auto parts store when his father purchased it. The couple has two other children, a son, Brad and daughter, Denise.

The Brockmans’ kindness hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recently, a letter appeared in the Grant County News, detailing how a family traveling through the area developed car trouble and the Brockmans went above and beyond to help them.

Jason Wallace, owner of Grant County Drugs, which sits across the street from the auto parts store, has witnessed first hand their kindness.

“Customer service is at the heart of what Dry Ridge Auto Parts does on a daily basis. It is no accident that Dave has endured 31 years of up and down economies,” Wallace wrote in a letter of support for Brockman’s nomination.