B&W Auto Supply
Wayne Epps grew up in the Doraville / Chamblee area, and after his army service as a young man he and business partner Bob Baker opened an auto parts store in downtown Norcross. That was 1969, and Wayne continued the store, known as B&W Automotive Sales, after Bob passed away some years ago. But after 51 years of providing both parts and service to a myriad of customers, Wayne decided it was time to spend more time at his lake house in North Georgia, and B&W shut its doors. Here is its story.
The three adjacent storefronts that eventually held the B&W business were built around the beginning of the 20th century. There was a large fire there in 1921 that severely damaged two of the businesses then located there - the insurance business of J C Pickens and A C Crisler’s retail store – while the third business, the O W Settle funeral parlor, remained for a time. Over the next 50 years there were other businesses there over time, including a retail store operated by William Carlyle, the father of famous baseball player Roy Carlyle. His store was one of the few places in town where you could buy ice, and he served as a deputy sheriff for a time.
The B&W business started small – Wayne and Bob took over and renamed an existing auto parts shop in one of the three shop spaces on South Peachtree. And, as Wayne put it, “we were in the right place at the right time.” B&W was able to grow with Gwinnett, eventually expanding to three times the original space, with 7 or 8 employees, plus delivery drivers who carried parts to customer locations as needed.
In the early days there were times when Wayne would stand by the door for extended periods of time, waiting for the next customer to appear, but they persevered and became a success, developing accounts such as Vulcan Materials, which would buy hundreds of gallons of Sherwin Williams auto paint to use in maintaining their equipment, and Western Electric / Lucent, to whom B&W supplied not only auto parts, but also, on occasion, needs such as golf carts, computer software and foul-weather gear. Yet B&W always had time to help the smaller customer as well – Craig Newton, later Mayor of Norcross, grew up in the community, and remembered going to the shop as a teenager for guidance on purchasing engine oil and maintaining his first car.
Epps remembered with a smile the many people he has known in Norcross over the years, including
- Gaines and Louise Ivy, who had a retail shop next to his in the early days – Gaines was also the local Justice of the Peace, and performed weddings in his office regularly, calling upon Wayne to act as a witness on multiple occasions. (B&W bought the store property from the Ivys when they retired, and then later bought the third shop space next door, previously home to a laundromat, as their B&W business grew further.)
- J P Harrington, who established an insurance agency in Norcross a short time after B&W arrived,
- Herman Orr, who ran an engine repair business near B&W - Wayne recalls that Herman was fastidious, never letting the white coat he wore daily get stained as he worked on engines
- Golden Garner, who ran a nearby car repair shop and was a valued B&W customer. Golden was in the shop to make purchases one day when Wayne’s wife, who was expecting, called her husband to tell him it was time for him to take her to the hospital for the delivery. At that point the shop was still a small operation, and Golden stepped in to run it for the rest of the day while Wayne was away.
Wayne Epps, shown in the photo below, has been a long-time Chevrolet enthusiast, but B&W helped all types of customers over the years, even those with Fords!