Auto parts store keeps Hamilton drivers, industries rolling

HAMILTON – For Hamilton Auto Parts to be under Tommy Dahlem’s ownership is more of a birth right than a business venture. His maternal grandfather, James Winders, started the

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL  HOMEGROWN – From left, Kenny Cross, Steve Honnoll, owner Tommy Dahlem and Marty Nicholson stand behind the counter at Hamilton Auto Parts.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL
HOMEGROWN – From left, Kenny Cross, Steve Honnoll, owner Tommy Dahlem and Marty Nicholson stand behind the counter at Hamilton Auto Parts.

business as Winders Parts in 1938 and that name has stuck with the community.
“Even though we changed the name in 1994, there are still plenty of people in town who say, ‘Well, I need to run down to Winders to get a part.’ We’ve been here so many years and have been such a healthy business because of our friends and neighbors,” said Dahlem, who splits also runs Hamilton’s cotton gin and owns Amory’s NAPA store.
When Dahlem’s father purchased the Hamilton auto parts store, it, too, was part of flip flopping between auto parts and cotton gins for work. After he returned solely to the cotton market, Dahlem split ownership of the parts store with his brother-in-law, James Tucker, in 1994. The family has had first dibs on purchasing the business the times it’s changed hands.
“My dad changed the store to a NAPA, but we’re still an independent store affiliated with NAPA for our parts. After James took a job with the company in Memphis, it was a conflict of interest for him to also co-own a NAPA store so I bought his share,” Dahlem said.
The store doubles as a parts store and a service station, focusing on tires, brakes and oil changes. Eddie Longstreet has served as the store’s tire professional for 25 years.
“For years, my uncle was the shop manager and my dad was the store manager, but we’ve found our niche in tires, oil and brakes. We try to stay out of doing engine work,” Dahlem said.
If Hamilton Auto Parts doesn’t have a part in stock, employees first check for its availability in the Amory store. If that location doesn’t have it and it can be ordered by 9 or 10 a.m., it can make it by mid-afternoon from the Memphis distribution center if it’s in stock there.
Dahlem said the business’ biggest client is Tronox, with Hamilton’s agriculture sector coming in second. The store tries to keep parts for forklifts, scissor lifts and other needed parts for Tronox’s in-house work and implement bearings, hydraulic hoses and other need parts for the area’s farming industry.
In addition to working with tractor tires as well, Hamilton Auto Parts does a significant amount of work for Eutaw Construction’s off road equipment, as well as work on equipment for Weyhauser and the area’s gravel pits.
“We really appreciate all of our customers. We’re a tight-knit community. For our steady customers, we’re all pretty much on a first name basis,” Dahlem said.
Name: Hamilton Auto Parts
Owner: Tommy Dahlem
Number of employees: 6 fulltime; 3 part-time
Years open: 1994 under Dahlem; 1938 under his grandfather
Address: 40464 Old Highway 45, Hamilton
Telephone: 343-8342
Hours: M-F, 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Sat. 7 a.m. until noon

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.