Crow-Burlingame – 100 years
This year many Arkansas businesses are celebrating big anniversaries alongside our state’s celebration of its territory bicentennial. Anniversaries are always an accomplishment, whether it’s one year, a centennial or more.
Bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the land that became Arkansas was established as a territory on March 2, 1819, according to the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” To celebrate the bicentennial, Arkansans gathered at the State Capitol in March for a party complete with a birthday cake, historical displays and a speech from Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Several of the state’s businesses are holding their own anniversary celebrations this year. It’s a milestone many do not get to enjoy. Twenty percent of businesses never see their first anniversary, and only about half will make it to their fifth year, according to the Small Business Administration. Arkansas is lucky to have such a diverse economy made up of local, homegrown businesses that Arkansans have continued to support for many years.
Who knew an unlikely meeting on a train would turn into 100 years of business? The founders of Crow-Burlingame, William Robert Crow and J.G. Burlingame, started their business in 1919 after their friendship grew from meeting on a train to Conway. Now the company is one of the largest Bumper-to-Bumper auto store affiliates serving seven Southern states.
Crow-Burlingame originally sold parts to car dealers.
“When you ordered a car back then, it came shipped in a box without a top or seats or any of those things. People had to get all those accessories and other parts locally to finish putting the car together,” says Fletcher Lord III, president of Crow-Burlingame, whose great-grandfather started the business.
Car dealers were responsible for outfitting cars with things that would come standard today, so the co-founders saw a need to sell those products to the dealers.
Obviously, the industry has since shifted, and so has Crow-Burlingame.
“The automobile and aftermarket parts business is constantly transforming,” Lord says. The company refocused to begin selling replacement parts when cars started coming completely equipped, and it began to expand its storefronts around the state. After a few more years, Crow-Burlingame had 20 stores and continued to grow over the decades to 177 company-owned stores.
Crow-Burlingame has managed to keep the family values of the founders in a rapidly changing environment. The company values its relationships with customers and does not expect that to change anytime soon.
“Something that’s always set Crow-Burlingame apart is that we’re family,” Lord says. “All our staff are part of that family, and we treat our customers like family, too. They respect us for it.”