PEPPERELL -- Perhaps it's the proximity to A1 Auto, a business with a remarkably similar moniker, speculates recruiter Kyrie Martino, or maybe it's the incredibly rapid expansion of the company, but 1A Auto in Pepperell now offers several available opportunities that thus far have gone untaken.
"We've got a lot of openings but we've had a bit of a hard time filling them," said owner Rick Green, who runs the business with help from his brother, Selectman Michael Green.
In an economy where citizens find themselves without jobs or traveling far distances to earn a salary not worth the commute, the after-market auto parts retailer boasts several positions not far outside of the average Pepperell home's doorstep. The Internet-based company, whose headquarters is located in Pepperell, also has a local warehouse. But because of the online nature of the business, most of the opportunities pertain to software development and business.
"So often people in the community travel to Boston for similar roles," said Martino.
The company, which also has locations in Kansas and Arizona, employs about 105 people nationwide, 70 of them in Pepperell. And they're looking for more.
1A Auto sells auto parts to independent buyers. Green characterizes his customers as "do-it-yourselfers, individuals who are fixing their cars themselves."
"There's this myth that cars have gotten super complicated.
To make it simpler for its customers, not only does the business sell the necessary auto parts for drivers to make their own repairs, they also boast about 1,700 YouTube videos of Michael showing the basic step-by-step processes involved in the repairs of dozens of makes and models.
"So the real person we sell to is not always just a 'do-it-yourselfer' with experience but a person who otherwise wouldn't 'do it yourself' but they but see the video and say 'I can totally do that,'" said Rick. "We take all the risk out. We sell you the exact part in the video so you know exactly what you're getting."
Rick founded the business in the late 1990s, when the Internet was just beginning to pick up speed. Green had begun as a software developer himself, building websites for other businesses. But in a time and market where few fully understood the benefits a website would bring, it was a hard sell.
"It was when no one wanted to buy websites," he said.
Around 1999, when Michael had only been out of college for a few years and Rick himself was deciding whether to go back to business school that the two decided to open up their own auto parts business. Their father had worked in the mail-order auto parts business, and they had known and understood the inventory. In early 1999, said Rick, the business had a shaky start.
"Imagine a world before Google," he said. "We had this website, but not a lot of people were finding us."
It had gotten to the point that the Green brothers had considered liquidating all of their assets and had begun putting up their inventory for sale on eBay.
"Sure enough, people just kept buying it," said Rick.
Before the boom of eBay, the company's items were listed in the miscellaneous category. Within a couple of months, he said, they had two percent of all listings in the category. Over a decade later, their personal website has taken off, but he still sells some inventory on eBay, and remains one of its biggest sellers across the globe. Up until 2012, the company's sales were mostly confined to the U.S.; over the past year, however, the company has grown and expanded to include Canada.
"Right now, we're actually in the process of beginning to sell worldwide," said Rick.
The process of opening up sales internationally is complicated, he said.
"(The regulations) are different in every country," he said.
He refers to the international expansion as a "trial balloon."
"It's really not driving the growth in positions. It's really just an experiment," he said.
The boom in positions comes from the nationwide growth.
"It's a young, fast-growing company," said Rick. "It's very exciting and very technically challenging."