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1A Auto builds commitment

PEPPERELL — A company that started out with two brothers and their father selling auto parts over the phone is now a strong player in improving the economic outlook of the community.

While celebrating the grand-opening of a new call center at 1A Auto on Sept. 23, President and CEO Rick Green made another announcement.

Though details were few, he said that the company has purchased the former paper mill site along the Nashua River. The plan is to build a new headquarters building on the now-empty lot. The old mill was demolished in 2011.

The purchase of the site, for cash, is part of the family’s commitment to the town.

“I want the people of Pepperell to know, this is our home,” he said.

They considered moving to nearby New Hampshire or closer to Routes 495 and 2 but chose to remain in the town where the family business began.

“When we bring a little bit of Pepperell to our customers, they will come back,” he said.

The family knew how important connecting with customers was when they made one of their first hires 12 years ago.

The two brothers, Rick and Selectman Mike Green, and their father, retired United States Air Force Lt. Col. Merle Green, do not like to talk on the phone. They all like to move around and do things. They needed an expert to keep their customers happy.

They looked locally for their answer and hired the counterman from Pepperell Auto Parts, Ron Woods. He has since passed away.

“He knew how to take care of customers,” Rick Green said. No matter how difficult a customer was, “you could always give them to John.”

Local workers continue to make the company strong.

“If it wasn’t for you folks,” Merle Green said to the assembled workforce at the grand opening, “we wouldn’t be here.”

Currently 1A Auto employs almost 200 people. The customer service department is increasing in size with new training sessions regularly.

Customer service representatives assist customers with sales on the company’s website and through its eBay store.

After the expansion into the new building, Green expects 1A Auto to have 300 to 350 employees.

Since opening in Pepperell, 1A Auto has added warehouses in Arizona and Kansas and ships throughout North America.

The Pepperell warehouse did not decrease in size when the other warehouses opened, Rick Green said. The local site continues to service the New England market.

Sales is one part of the company’s success. Another element is support.

“We’re here for the customer,” said Mike Green. The company has a 97 percent satisfaction rate from Bizrate and has earned the Platinum Circle of Excellence from them for the last seven years.

Their customers speak to their success.

Rich Sevigny, a parole officer, had never visited the warehouse before the grand opening of the call center. When talking with customer service, he received an invitation to the event.

The auto enthusiast relies on the over 3,000 videos that Mike Green created, showing how to install the parts the company sells.

“I just wanted to shake his hand,” Sevigny said.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.