Ken Morris and his family have recently branched out from their long-established business, Heavy Equipment Services, to give Brooklet its own auto parts store for the first time in more than a decade.
It's actually Southern Auto Parts and Big Truck Parts, and fills a section of a 14,000-square-foot building on U.S. Highway 80 at the eastern end of Brooklet. Morris bought the building, which had originally housed Jones Building Supply and later the Discount Foods store, several years ago.
Having worked in the equipment service business for 31 years and owning Heavy Equipment Services, based in Stilson, for 19 years, Morris knew firsthand how inconvenient it was to drive into Statesboro for a part. With Southeast Bulloch area companies such as Bulloch Gin already doing business with him at Heavy Equipment Services, Morris saw a need for a parts place.
"I think it's a need for the community. This end of the county is growing," Morris said, "and everybody complains that they have to go so far in to get parts. If you need a bolt or something minor, you're on the way to Statesboro."
Few would argue with the point that a trip from Stilson or Nevils to the nearest parts store in Statesboro and back could carve a 90-minute chunk out of a working person's day.
"And if I leave at 3 p.m. on Friday, I'm not getting back before 5," Morris said. "Traffic up there is a mess."
Southern Auto Parts stocks parts from Uni-Select for domestic and imported vehicles.
Uni-Select, according to its website, is the sixth-largest U.S. distributor of after-market parts. Its network of 42 warehouses serves more than 2,300 affiliated stores. They have next-day delivery to the store in Brooklet.
"What we don't have we can get the next morning," Morris said.
He is employing Justin Bolton, an experienced mechanic who has worked in shops such as Complete Car Care in Claxton, and also for Heavy Equipment Services, as manager of the new store.
"He has a background as a mechanic and we've changed him into a parts guy," said Morris. "He has good knowledge of the product that we're using and its application."
Morris' son, Wyatt Morris, 17, is assistant manager. Now a senior at Southeast Bulloch High School, he plans to go to college for a business degree, but to return and eventually operate both of his father's businesses. He also previously worked at Heavy Equipment Services.
With the Morrises' trucking and industrial connections from that business, they have added Big Truck Parts to the Southern Auto Parts line. Among other things, they are stocking hydraulic hoses and fittings for large trucks.
The store offers delivery to the repair site on major orders from local customers.
One specialty of Heavy Equipment Services, supplying air-conditioning parts for off-road machines such as farm tractors, bulldozers and backhoes, has now been transferred to Southern Auto Parts.
The shop also stocks lawnmower blades and accessories. With more space available in the building than the store currently occupies, Morris plans to add more inventory to meet customer demand, including a selection of small hardware items within a year.
"We have plenty of room to expand," he said.
Heavy Equipment Services
His other business has customers far beyond Bulloch County. For years, Heavy Equipment Services' main business was assembling and disassembling huge mining machines, such as the 300- and 400-ton rock trucks that work big quarries and coal mines.
Used machines imported from as far away as Australia would be dismantled by Heavy Equipment Services at Georgia's ports. Hauled in multiple over-the-road trucks to mining areas as far away as Kentucky and Wyoming, the huge machines would then be reassembled on-site.
Sometimes the process is reversed, with U.S.-built machines assembled at the port for export.
"Some of these trucks are seven, eight, nine tractor-trailer loads," Morris said. "They bring them in and you've got to reassemble the whole thing and then drive them onto the ship."
With coal-mining in a slowdown in recent years, this business has fallen off. But Heavy Equipment Services still does some of it, and recently put a 389,000-pound wheel-loader together in Brunswick.
But the company has branched out, servicing more ordinary-size machines for area contractors and industries. Heavy Equipment Services also disassembles and loads some smaller machines into containers for overseas shipment as well.
"We do all kinds of stuff down there now," Morris said. "We're very diverse. Of course, you have to be."
Southern Auto Parts has two employees; Heavy Equipment Services has four.
Morris notes that his new auto parts store is creating some work, in turn, for his Heavy Equipment customers. Mill Creek Construction Co. repaved the parking lot and did the striping, and Fred Ruarks Construction is contracted to put on a new metal roof.