You Gotta Have Heart – AftermarketNews.com (AMN)

December 21, 2021 by No Comments

From the time he was a kid, Rocky Gragg has been tinkering on anything with a motor. 

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Growing up in Augusta, Georgia, Gragg honed his mechanical skills out of necessity. His dad served in the military – including two tours in Vietnam – which often left Gragg to fend for himself around the house. “He wasn’t around a whole lot, so I kind of had to learn how to do stuff,” Gragg says.

Gragg remembers starting a “neighborhood fix-it business for lawnmowers” when he was 12 or 13. 

“I was always working on cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers,” Gragg recalls. “I could fix just about anything back then, unless it was something major.”

Little did Gragg know that he was laying the foundation for a long, productive and award-winning career in the automotive aftermarket.  

Gragg, today a senior market specialist at Parts Authority in Norcross, Georgia, has been an in-demand counterman for more than 40 years. During the 2021 AAPEX show in Las Vegas, AMN/Counterman and WIX Filters recognized Gragg as the 2021 Counter Professional of the Year, sponsored by WIX Filters.

“The thing I’ve always tried to do is treat people just the way I want to be treated,” Gragg says of his approach to customer service. “Working on cars is hard enough as it is, and from doing it a lot myself, I know all the trials and tribulations they go through. I just want to get people the right stuff, the first time.”

Gragg’s first big break in the business came when he was in high school: A neighbor, who happened to own an auto parts store in Augusta, offered him a part-time job. Gragg worked at the neighbor’s store for several years, coming in after class, and established himself as a capable counterman during that time. 

Still, Gragg had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, and he enrolled in Augusta College after graduating from high school in 1976. But, he already was building a reputation as an up-and-coming parts specialist with a passion for automotive and a knack for customer relations. When another parts store in Augusta tried to recruit him for a full-time position, Gragg initially said no, because he was planning to finish his college degree. 

However, the owner of the store made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I think it was like $300 a week,” Gragg chuckles. “As a kid, that was a ton of money. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try and see what happens.’”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Gragg gained valuable experience as a counterman and manager at several Augusta parts stores before Johnson Industries in Atlanta came calling. Chris Bolden, now general manager for Parts Authority’s Georgia region, recruited and hired Gragg in 1993. (Parts Authority acquired the Johnson Industries Atlanta operation in 2014.) During the recruiting process, Bolden asked several repair shops to name their favorite counter personnel in the area. 

The name “Rocky Gragg” seemed to be on every shop’s short list.

“[Shops] told us that he knew the automotive trade, he had a lot of experience and he invested the time with customers to get them the right part at the right time. He wasn’t just looking to make a quick sale and get off the phone,” Bolden recalls. “That type of quality customer service is what really piqued my interest at the time – and that’s certainly …….

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