The Pep Boys Story
Over 80 Years of Automotive Excellence!
The Early Years
Emanuel "Manny" Rosenfeld, Maurice "Moe" Strauss, Moe Radavitz and Graham "Jack" Jackson were the original Pep Boys. They were four industrious young Philadelphians who pooled $200 each in 1921 to establish an auto parts supply company that would become the $2.2 billion industry leader it is today.
While the Manny, Moe and Jack characters were modeled after founders Rosenfeld, Strauss and Jackson, many people do not know there were originally two Moes. Moe Radavitz left after only a few years in the business. While the names and faces behind the founders draw immense interest, so too does its serendipitous naming, which is now a legend.
Before his death in 1982, Moe Strauss recounted this story about the company's humble beginnings: It was 1921, and Pep Auto Supplies was a new Philadelphia business. "We were trying to think of a name for our store, but we needed a name that was as short as possible. Our first storefront was only a few feet across." The partners were sitting around the store drinking nickel sodas and kicking around ideas for a name. Then, someone noticed a shipment of Pep Valve Grinding Compound in the store, which inspired the name "Pep Auto Supplies."
The change to the name Pep Boys came from a Philadelphia policeman who worked near the first store on 63rd and Market Streets. Every time he stopped a car at night for not having an oil wick burning, he would tell the driver to go see the "boys" at Pep for a replacement. Common usage gave rise to the name Pep Boys.
Moe Strauss' trip to California around 1923 brought about the official name of "The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack." Moe noticed that many successful businesses there used first names. One of the dress shops he noticed in particular was called Minnie, Maude and Mabel's. "When I came back from California, I had a friend, Harry Moscovitz, create the three big caricatures of Manny, Moe and Jack," Strauss said.
Ironically, the three faces that have become so recognizable around the world as Manny, Moe and Jack, are not truly Manny, Moe and Jack. Jack's face appeared briefly when the caricatures were first penned. However, after Mr. Jackson left Pep Boys, his face was replaced with that of Moe's brother, Isaac (Izzy) Strauss.
After Izzy left the company, Manny Rosenfeld's brother, Murray, joined the team. However, Izzy's face remained and continues to be a part of the company's icon to this day.
Evolution of Pep Boys
By the early 1930s, Pep Boys had grown to 40 stores in Philadelphia. By then, Moe Strauss had returned to California, and in 1933 The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack became a west-coast chain.
Over the next 40 years, Pep Boys East and West evolved somewhat separately, with separate buying and advertising departments. Because most supply sources in the 1930s and through the end of World War II were located east of the Mississippi River, much of the merchandise took two months to reach the west coast (by way of the Panama Canal), making it all but impossible to coordinate promotions.
Meanwhile, auto parts were going off to war. United States auto production had virtually collapsed in 1931 and would not return to its 1929 high of 5.1 million cars until 1941. Undaunted by this bleak outlook, Murray Rosenfeld kept Pep Boys stocked with non-automotive merchandise. Southern California's population was booming with war workers, and Pep Boys was supplying them with work clothes, bicycles and lawn and garden equipment for their "victory gardens." By the end of the war, Pep Boys' primary mission was to build the finest retail aftermarket chain in that market.
In 1946, Pep Boys went public. Manny Rosenfeld became the company's first corporate president, a position he held until his death in 1959. Moe Strauss was president from 1960 to 1973 and remained a member of the board of directors until his death in 1982, 61 years after he helped found Pep Boys. During this time, the face of the auto industry changed dramatically. By 1960, the U.S. had 74 million cars - one for every three Americans. But, by 1980, Japanese imports began making their mark and Chrysler, Ford and GM reported huge losses as they were forced to retool for downsized, fuel-efficient cars.
Through it all, Pep Boys continued to expand, focusing on service, experience and the changing needs of the customer. The one-stop shopping format that had helped sustain Pep Boys during World War II evolved into accessories, hard parts, tires, and service. Facing greater automobile complexity and changing demographics, the company was poised to satisfy the aftermarket needs of all consumers.
A New Era
In 1986, Mitch Leibovitz was named company president, the first non-founding family member to hold the post. Ready to take on the challenges of information systems, changing customer needs and expansion opportunities, Leibovitz led a young team of executives to plan and implement a Five-Year Plan.
The Plan had six components:
- ambitious store expansion
- a refined merchandise mix
- increased warehousing and distribution capability
- improved repair and maintenance services
- state-of-the-art systems support
- and consolidation of headquarters operations
The results were phenomenal. From January 1986 to January 1991, Pep Boys grew from 159 to 313 stores. Sales more than doubled and, by the end of Fiscal Year 1990, Pep Boys was in 17 states.
Out of the Five-Year Plan came improvements that contributed greatly to Pep Boys' nationwide success. The automotive Supercenter was born. Advances in computerization, store layout and services created a true "one-stop shop" to take full advantage of the synergy between the retail and service centers. An expanded selection of national brands was offered to enable Pep Boys to compete on any level by offering the largest and most comprehensive selection of premium parts and accessories.
In 1991, Pep Boys completed its conversion to Everyday Low Prices and reached the $1 billion sales mark. Across the board, quality, product availability and customer satisfaction were the number one focus. To take advantage of the declining number of service bays in America, Pep Boys has added thousands of state-of-the-art service bays and now operates more than 6,500. In the early '90s, Pep Boys took on a new look. The corporate logo, signage, color scheme, and even Manny, Moe & Jack were updated. The store layout, wall decor, service areas, and check-out areas were redesigned and further refined to make the stores more user-friendly.
In 1994, Pep Boys announced that it would introduce a supplemental format which would not have service bays or carry tires. Initially named "PartsUSA" this supplemental format was intended to help the company increase its market penetration by providing more retail outlets as well as by establishing a broader network of parts distribution points to serve its auto parts delivery program. These stores were renamed "Pep Boys Express" in 1997 to distinguish this format from the full service Supercenters and provide them with the brand equity and high-level of consumer recognition and acceptance that Pep Boys has built since its inception since 1921. Also in 1997, Pep Boys began testing one service-only format named Pep Boys Service and Tire Center in Moorestown, NJ.
In October of 1998, Pep Boys decided on a new strategic positioning that resulted in the sale and/or closure of all but 12 Express format parts stores. This decision was based on the company's firm belief that it can maximize all of its competitive advantages and improve its long-range performance by focusing all of its attention and capital on its proven Supercenter format. In addition to its service and tire offerings, this format also features a new commercial delivery program.
The commercial delivery program, called Pep Express Parts Delivery, was completed on a chain-wide basis in August 1998. This program provides Pep Boys with the opportunity to service commercial accounts wherever Pep Boys operates.
Without a doubt, Pep Boys is the broadest provider of customer satisfaction in the automotive aftermarket and will continue to be a strong, national company with a bright future. No other known company can satisfy the automotive aftermarket in its entirety like Pep Boys. Do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me and professional installers have come to rely on Pep Boys for high-quality, name-brands, low prices, convenience and un-matched service. Throughout its history, one thing has remained unchanged: Pep Boys continues to focus on each customer as if the company had only one store.