East End Auto Parts turns 50
Bill Kustaborder celebrates milestone after five decades of serving the area
Despite its inauspicious beginnings, East End Auto Parts is celebrating 50 years in business.
“I was in the towing business and needed a place to store vehicles. To store them, I had to have a salvage yard license. So I started a salvage business,” co-owner and founder Bill Kustaborder said.
“We started with 11 vehicles and $50. We were scraping and scratching,” said his wife Marsha, co-owner, who joined the business in 2000.
Located in Logan Township at 600. E. Sixth Ave., East End Auto Parts focuses on selling parts for pickup trucks, SUVs and Ford Mustangs.
“We’re small, so we have to specialize in certain vehicles,” Bill Kustabodrer said.
“This is a generic, old fashioned salvage yard,” Marsha Kustaborder said.
Due largely in part to the internet, the business has changed throughout the years.
“Everything is now online. There are no longer auto auctions where you stand and bid. It has been harder to do business as a small neighborhood salvage yard. We’re bidding against the whole world,” Marsha Kustaborder said. “Your competition isn’t the ones in the neighborhood; it’s all over the world. You have to adjust accordingly. Sometimes it’s hard.”
Marsha, who met Bill in 1962 and married him in 1964, joined the business in 2000 and serves as office manager and bookkeeper.
She admits that she doesn’t like using a computer.
“We have a card file of every vehicle that comes in. If all of the lights go out, we would still know what we have. We do have our inventory online; you can scan our inventory,” Marsha Kustaborder said.
East End Auto Parts ships parts all over the world — to Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Africa, as well as about two-thirds of the United States.
East End has been working with Aim Used Auto Parts in Tampa, Fla., for about eight years.
“They’re a great company to work with. They sell great parts, and I enjoy talking with Bill and Marsha,” Sophia Metallo, assistant manager, said.
East End buys about 300 vehicles a year.
“That’s all we can handle,” Bill Kustaborder said.
East End Auto Parts sells a wide variety of parts.
“We sell almost everything but catalytic converters. We also can’t ship air bags or gas tanks,” Bill Kustaborder said.
Towing also remains a part of the business.
At age 76, Bill “is the oldest person in Altoona still doing towing. He’s been towing since he got his license. He crawls under cars in the middle of the night and hooks them up when the state police call,” Marsha Kustaborder said.
The towing business can be hazardous.
“When I was at an accident on I-99 in the winter of 2005 recovering a wrecked vehicle, an SUV slid out of control and landed on top of me. I only had minor injuries. The job has its hazards,” Bill Kustaborder said.
Marsha credits her husband for the success of the business.
“This business is Bill — his gumption, his perseverance and his love of the business. This isn’t just a job to him; this is the love of his life besides me. He loves his work. That is the key to success, if you are willing to keep at it during the lows and highs. God is a central figure in our lives,” Marsha Kustaborder said. “It has been hard, sometimes. We were scraping, he would persevere and never let things get him down.”
East End has played an important role in the community, said President/CEO Joe Hurd of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.
“When the chamber talks about small businesses being the backbone of the local economy, it’s businesses like East End Auto Parts that we’re referencing. Bill Kustaborder and his staff determined early-on what the mission of their business would be, and they haven’t deviated from that mission. It’s no coincidence that, 50 years later, they’re still going strong,” Hurd said.
Bill said he doesn’t have any plans to retire.
“I haven’t thought about retiring, but I won’t be here for another 50 years. We have no one to take it over,” Bill Kustaborder said.