Volume 10, Issue 5 - September/October 2008

Auto (Glass) Focus
Mygrant Remains Devoted to Distribution Business After More Than 70 Years

by Penny Stacey

If you ask Paul Anaya, national accounts and marketing manager for Mygrant Glass in Hayward, Calif., what sets the company apart from other distributors, he’s quick to tell you that it’s the company’s streamlined focus on handling one aspect of the
auto glass business.

“The biggest message we like to send to our customers is that we don’t compete with them,” he says. “This is all we do.”

While “all we do” may sound limited, the company has grown over the years to become a full-service distributor— offering everything from auto glass to mouldings to urethanes, and the list goes on.

“We want to carry what our customers want,” Anaya says. “We carry everything—glass parts, supplies and tools.”

The company considers itself a onestop- shop distributor, and Anaya likens it to the Home Depot of auto glass.

Its lifeblood of course, though, goes back to the company’s roots—glass.

“We buy from all over the world and pride ourselves on purchasing the glass directly from the factory,” Anaya says. “We’re pretty proud of that, and we’re very particular about the glass parts we do carry.”

Mike Mygrant, whose grandfather, Harry Mygrant, founded the company in 1926, still today handles inventory and quality assurance.

“We have the inventory levels that we have because of Mike Mygrant,” Anaya says. “He really wants to go out of his way to meet customer requests.”

Having it all is the main concern, though.

“Mike wants to stock everything,” says Kelsey Biggs, Southern California operations manager for the company, who just celebrated 20 years with the company.

“We want to give customers options,” adds Anaya.

Due to its range of available products, Anaya notes that some have equated Mygrant typically as a distributor of Chinese glass—but he is quick to assuage this assumption.

“We are a full-line distributor that provides brands and parts that our customers want—not just Chinese,” he says.

He also points out that quality assurance is of the utmost importance.

“Mike is very particular about the vendors we choose,” Anaya adds.

A Few Years Back
While distribution is Mygrant’s main and only focus today, it wasn’t always that way. The company actually was founded in 1926 as a retail shop called Harry R. Mygrant Glass & Glazing. Harry’s son, Robert, took over in 1945, and at that point distribution was added, and by 1966, the company had grown to six locations. In 1979, Robert’s son, Mike, took over one of these six locations— and today has grown the business to 49 locations nationwide. Over the years, the company’s owners chose to depart from the original retail operations in order to focus on wholesale distribution. Likewise, the company no longer carries either architectural or commercial glass and focuses solely on auto glass distribution.

Inside Mygrant
As the company has grown to the business it is today, Anaya says it has learned a few things, of course, about how to maintain a large inventory.

“We’ve learned the hard way to maximize high ceilings,” he jokes.

In addition, the company employs many customer service representatives who can take orders by phone at each of its various locations, but also has an online ordering system as well.

At each of its facilities, it utilizes a dispatch desk and dispatch order generator that prints each order as it arrives—either via phone or online—and the person assigned to work the dispatch desk monitors it, hands out orders as necessary and makes sure this is done in an organized fashion.

For customers near a location who wish to avoid a delivery charge, it also offers will-call pick-ups. Fuel prices are as much an issue for a distributor such as Mygrant as it is for their glass shop customers.

“We are in this thing with our customers,” Anaya says. But, he adds, “The one thing we promote is that if you’re close to a location, we have the best will-call service in the industry.”

Over the years, Mygrant has become extremely automated—and there are no ladders in its facilities, only order pickers that rise the shelves of glass and supplies throughout. The company also employs lean practices.

“We have to be lean and disciplined to run our business, but that enables us to [stock so much inventory],” Anaya adds.

But, Anaya admits, there’s always room for improvement.

“We’re still learning wholesale. We’re striving to get better,” he says.

Mygrant’s distribution centers are open six days a week—closed only on Sunday.

At its will-call locations, the companyoffers an Equalizer store filled with its products, along with coffee for customers stopping in.

“We really try to create a positive shopping environment,” Biggs says.

Mygrant’s Strength
Part of that environment is whatAnaya calls the company’s strength: its people.

“Our people are our biggest asset,” he says. “What you find [here] is longevity—seasoned people who are good at what they do.”

Anaya attributes much of this strength to the company’s leaders, Mike Mygrant, president and owner, his wife, Cathy, who serves as secretary and treasurer, and its zone managers, Tom Higginbottom, Dave Kidston and Mark Scroggins, who oversee and direct sales and operations company-wide.

“Tom and Dave have been extremely instrumental in the growth and expansion,” Biggs says.

“We don’t have layers and layers of management,” adds Anaya.

Biggs notes that the commitment runs through the company from management down through the ranks.

“CSRs, dispatchers, etc.—the good management shows from the top down,” he says. “[Management] wants employees to be happy.”

This is particularly apparent in Mygrant employees’ willingness to help each other out.

“We all pitch in,” Biggs says. “We want everyone to be successful at each branch.”

“We’re very much a mom-and-pop [business],” adds Anaya. “You won’t find someone that says ‘that’s not my job.’”

How to Grow
In addition to its people and familylike atmosphere, part of Mygrant’s success over the years has been its willingness to open new locations to better serve its customers—and its ability to know when and where these locations are needed.

“The question we commonly are asked is why Memphis? Why Denver? Why Chicago?” Anaya says. “The answer: ‘opportunity and people.’”

“If we get calls like that from cities with demand, we have to look at the opportunity,” Anaya says. Biggs adds that management takes a close look, too, at who is available to help start a new location.

“We were hand-picked to be involved,” says Biggs of the expansions in which he’s participated. “It’s something you can look back on and be proud of.”

For those areas without a Mygrant location, the company ships its products. The company is always watching, though, for “opportunity and demand.”

“There are markets and major cities we’re not in yet,” Anaya says. One of these opportunities appeared recently when the company purchased two Independent Glass Distributors’ locations in the Northeast (one in Annapolis Junction, Md., and one in Pittsburgh). The company also recently acquired a location in Memphis, Tenn., from Lewis Auto Glass.

When this happens the company’s management looks for key employees to help with the start-up involved in opening a new branch.

“You have to have a stable crew,” says Biggs.

Close to the Customers
While Mygrant prides itself on not competing with customers, it also prides itself on listening to them— either when opening a new location or considering a product line expansion.

“We’re very sensitive and close to our customer base,” Anaya says. “It all goes back to opportunity.”

“The individual retailer is our lifeblood,” he adds. “We want to support those guys in any way we can.”

The company frequently holds customer appreciation events, ranging from cookouts to product fairs. During these, they often invite industry representatives, such as Equalizer’s Gilbert Gutierrez, or the company’s own Jean Pero, who serves on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) Council, to speak. Mygrant has been a big supporter of AGRSS and of the Auto Glass Technician Olympics (see related story on page 52).

“You eat together—you go through the good times, the bad times,” Anaya says.

He adds that the company shares a special bond with many of its retail customers.

“We are independent just like they are,” he says.

Industry Challenges
Of course, just like independent glass shops and chains alike, Mygrant has its challenges. One of these is one that resonates throughout all levels of the industry: pricing.

“The NAGS pricing model is broken,” Anaya says. “We cannot afford to sell our products based on the NAGS model.”

The NAGS numbering system, though, is crucial to the company’s inventory, Biggs notes.

“Though [NAGS is] conscious of distribution, I don’t think they understand completely what we go through,” Anaya adds.

The new vehicles and the glass they will require also is a concern.

“It will present its challenges, but we’ll find a way,” Biggs says. “We have many talented warehouse people who know what they’re doing.”

Fuel also is an issue for the distributor—just as it is for the shops to whom it sells.

“The big challenge is being able to provide the services we provide with rising costs and fuel,” Anaya says. But, he adds that Mygrant realizes that the entire industry is in the same boat.

“With the rising fuel costs, our customers are in the same situation we’re in,” he says.

“There’s always room for improvement,” adds Biggs. “That’s what makes us just like your ordinary retailer.”

AGRR
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