Fleet Parts lands in Valley of the Sun

RICHARD Lebowitz, owner of New Jersey-based Fleet Parts & Service Inc, was looking for a Southwest or West Coast location for a distribution center that would allow the company to more quickly reach customers out there.

Ted Piotrowski, who worked for a Fleet Parts distributor in the Bronx, New York, was headed to Arizona to escape the brutal winters and fast lifestyle.

The convergence of Lebowitz's desire and Piotrowski's dream has produced Fleet Parts of Arizona, a 10,750-sq-ft distribution center in Phoenix that opened in April and has been steadily building up a strong base.

“We were having problems on the West Coast — not on prices, which were better than anybody out there, but on the time it took for parts to get from New Jersey to California, New Mexico, and the Southwest,” Lebowitz says. “We were losing out on a lot of business because of the time factor. Now, shipping from Phoenix, we're no more than a day or two away from anywhere out there. That was the incentive to get a place out there.”

The center is carrying an estimated 550 parts numbers and $250,000 worth of inventory — figures that were expected to increase in August as more trailers reached the center. Lebowitz says the new distribution center also is picking up walk-in business because it's located in an industrial area.

“The new distribution center is starting to make an impact,” he says. “The phones are busy all the time. We're getting all the regional people — from California to Washington, and New Mexico and Texas. Ted's been very busy taking care of that end of the country.”

Says branch manager Piotrowski, “Every week it gets busier. It's picking up. We've gone from opening with nothing to now shipping out every day.”

Fleet Parts is a distributor of aftermarket truck and trailer replacement parts, including aluminum extrusions, corner caps/castings, doors, fasteners, fiberglass caps, bumpers, liftgates, lights, rams, rivets, roofing, hinges, locks, and steel parts and U-bolts. Fleet Parts also is an authorized Budget and Enterprise Truck Rental Parts Center.

Piotrowski, who formerly worked for Frank Siviglia & Co — a refrigerated truck body manufacturer in the Bronx — entered the picture when he was ordering some parts during a phone conversation with Lebowitz last year.

“Well, this might be the last time I talk to you,” Piotrowski said.

“Where you going?” Lebowitz said.

“Arizona.”

“What are you going to do to earn a living?”

“I really don't know, but I'll find something.”

“Come on over and let's talk.”

And so it was that Piotrowski, who has been in the business for 28 years, became branch manager.

Piotrowski, who had fallen in love with Arizona while on vacation there, moved out to Phoenix and looked at potential sites for the distribution center, ultimately finding one at 5141 W. Latham Ave. He bought the machines and hired temporary workers to put up the racks.

Soon, Fleet Parts may expand. Lebowitz says the company in the adjacent space will be moving in December, and Lebowitz expects to buy that space, knock down the wall and double the size of his distribution center.

Also, Fleet Parts has completed its 2004 Truck Body Parts Catalog and it is now available for distribution. This second edition has 295 pages, 18 quick references, and a full product line. To reserve a copy, call 800-645-4344.

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