Springfield, MO

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After 5: Old Sign, New Gig

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It resembles many other signs of its era.

A weathered, wooden rectangle, the red sign has white, block-style, sans serif lettering with evidence that neon once lighted its top.

It clearly has stood proudly for many years at its original home, the Link Motor Supply Co. store on East Kearney Street.

The sign was produced in Springfield – made clear by the faded lettering that says “Springfield …” before becoming illegible due to aging. It could be Springfield Neon or Springfield Sign.

Either way, this sign has a story to tell, and officials with Springfield-based O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY) and local restaurant Doe’s Eat Place intend to make sure that the story lives on.

Link speaks
I’m getting a new assignment after years of observing diners at Doe’s Eat Place at the corner of East Trafficway and National Avenue.

I’m the sign that stood guard over Link Motor Supply Co. on Kearney Street, which makes my new assignment a kind of homecoming.

You see, Link Motor Supply is where father and son Charles F. and Chub O’Reilly cut their teeth in the automotive parts business.

Charles O’Reilly was a manager at the Link store, and Link had a reorganization in the works with plans to ask Charles to retire and to reassign Chub to Kansas City. Not finding those offers favorable, the duo started their own little auto parts store in 1957, which makes Link the forerunner of sorts to O’Reilly Automotive.

I hear the company’s done pretty well for itself, which makes me anxious for my new spot adorning a wall in O’Reilly’s $9 million, 115,000-square-foot new office building at 455 S. Patterson Ave.

I’ve overheard the table talk at Doe’s that O’Reilly Automotive is now the country’s third-largest aftermarket auto parts retailer with 2009 sales of $4.85 billion at 3,500 stores in nearly 40 states. Wow, that’s a long way from Link.

I’ve been at Doe’s since Bill Davis opened the place in 2006. Actually, I’ve been here since long before that.

Bill found me taking up space in his storeroom rafters in 2001 when he bought the building. I ended up in storage after both Link stores – on Kearney and on Trafficway – closed, I just can’t remember exactly when.

Hey, what can I say? When you’re pushing 80 years old, you start to forget things.

When I took my current post, on a wall overlooking Doe’s dining room, I kind of thought that would be my last stop.

Bill, my boss, agreed to donate me to O’Reilly, but only after company officials spotted me and offered to buy me. Guess that makes me a hot commodity.

Anything beats being stuck in a storeroom. And I have to say, I’m excited about this new job opportunity. Given that I’m a connecting point for O’Reilly Automotive to its Springfield history, that makes my new role even more special.

O’Reilly Automotive Marketing Director Wes Wise has big plans for me in a historic timeline showcasing the company’s growth.

Come February, I get to restart my engine and head on over to O’Reilly’s headquarters. Boy, I can’t wait.[[In-content Ad]]


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