Our History

It all started in 1927.
E.P. Arnold, who saw a future in the automobile parts industry, started Arnold Motor Supply in 1927. As he watched the popularity of the automobile increase, he knew that there would be a market for replacement parts. Although he did not know much about automobiles, Mr. Arnold built a box for the back of a 1927 Chevrolet, and some mechanic friends helped him select about $65 worth of parts that garages would need. He tacked up a price list and traveled town to town in Northwest Iowa. Thus, with $300 savings and a $200 loan, our company was born. In 1929, Mr. Arnold expanded the operation by purchasing a piston grinder. In 1931, he opened the first branch auto parts store in Marshall, Minnesota with Paul Byers as his first partner and branch manager. In that same year, the Spencer fire destroyed the original store which was promptly rebuilt. Despite advice from bankers and warning of the shaky retail environment Mr. Arnold opened his third store in Sheldon in 1932.

From the beginning, Mr. Arnold believed that people would work harder as owners than employees. With this belief he built the business to ten stores with ten partners over the next twenty years. In the early 1950’s, competition was keen and Mr. Arnold viewed investing in people as his competitive advantage. The unique pay structure that Mr. Arnold developed meant he was able to recruit top people. As competitors tried to hire away his valuable employees, Mr. Arnold decided to take his partnership program which had worked well with store managers, and extend it to include some of his top sales and shop people. To attest to the foresight of Mr. Arnold, many of his original formulas and pay-plans are still in use today. His philosophy is reflected in his statement, “ You build a business with people, not with buildings of brick and stone...”.

In 1960, Mr. Arnold built the auto parts warehouse in Spencer and named it The Merrill Company after his son, Merrill Arnold. At first, the new warehouse sold only to the ten Arnold Motor Supply stores. In 1966, Mr. Arnold opened the partnership to all employees. Recognizing the opportunity ownership presented, everyone joined. Today our partners include many second and third generation owners. When an employee is invited to join the partnership, their minimum investment is just $500, a tribute to the amount Mr. Arnold had when he started the company.

Growth continued through the 1970’s. When we joined the Auto Value group in March of 1983 our store count was at nineteen. When the partnership purchased Automotive Paint and Equipment, a stand-alone paint and body supply store in Illinois in 1996 we had twenty-seven stores. In that same year, a light industrial coatings division was formed which today is known as Industrial Paint Solutions and sells industrial paint to light duty manufacturers. In 1999, Specialty Sales, an automotive parts distributor in Omaha, Nebraska, and their 10 stores were purchased, bringing the store count to forty five. These stores took on the Auto Value brand. In 2003, we expanded our commercial coatings business with the purchase of Industrial Paint Supply in Omaha, NE. In 2005 we added our first manufacturing division, Midwest Cylinder Head in Nevada, IA, which rebuilds engines and engine components. In 2006, we started Auto Refinish Solutions, our division that supplies collision parts, and sells and services heavy-duty body shop and industrial painting equipment. Today, through acquisitions and building from scratch, our store count is fifty two, twenty of which contain full service machine shops. In addition to the stores, our company includes Midwest Cylinder Head and Machine in Nevada, IA, Auto Refinish Solutions which specializes in paint and body repair parts and equipment, and Industrial Paint Solutions.

The goal of The Arnold Group of Companies is built upon the concept of increasing sales and profits through training, marketing, and improving the operational efficiencies of ourselves and our customers. Because people still buy from people, we strive to set our team apart from those of our competition just as Mr. Arnold did from the beginning. We continually make an investment in our people so that they are the best that they can be. As Mr. Arnold was fond of stating, “our responsibility is first to our customers, the sole reason for our existence.” This attitude is the cornerstone of our constitution on customer service, the sincere belief that “service is the difference”.
THE ARNOLD GROUP OF COMPANIES TODAY:
  • 5 divisions
  • 2 auto parts distribution centers covering stores in 5 states
  • Auto Refinish Solutions Warehouse
  • Industrial Paint Solutions
  • Midwest Cylinder Head and Machine
  • State-of-the-art Technical Training Center
  • 53 company stores and over 60 independent Auto Value and non-aligned jobbers
  • 19 full service machine shops
  • Over 200 Dedicated Certified Service Centers
  • Nearly 300 delivery vehicles driven over 7,000,000 miles per year
  • Servicing over 10,000 wholesale customers many of them daily
  • Represented by over 75 sales team members and 150 counter professionals
  • Calling on more top installers weekly in markets reaching over 3.5 million end users
THE MIDWEST'S LEADER IN SALES TO THE PROFESSIONAL INSTALLER.
The Arnold Group of Companies is one of the nation's premier suppliers of replacement parts, accessories and supplies for virtually all makes of automobiles, light to heavy-duty trucks, off-road equipment, marine and agricultural equipment. The Arnold Group of Companies also distributes the highest quality tools, equipment, paint & body supplies, and collision parts available in the car care industry.
MORE THAN JUST AUTO PARTS...
At The Merrill Company we realize there's more to the parts business than wiper blades and key chains. We specialize in providing our customers with the products, knowledge, and promotional materials they need to cater to the demands of their marketplace. So whether it's Fleet and Heavy-Duty, Paint and Body, Agriculture or Marine, we take pride in our ability to provide our customers with what the need to be successful.

The Arnold Group of Companies includes Arnold Motor Supply, Auto Value Parts Stores, Industrial Paint Solutions, Auto Refinish Solutions, Midwest Cylinder Head and Machine, Specialty Sales of Omaha, and The Merrill Company. The company is a member of the Automotive Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, an international group of independent automotive parts stores and warehouses with locations throughout the world.
Our Divisions

THE MERRILL COMPANY AND SPECIALTY SALES
In the 1960's, the Arnold Motor Supply stores numbered ten. With a good business model in place, the demands of the marketplace indicated that a warehouse operation would improve profitability. Subsequently, a 27,000 square foot building was constructed on farm ground in south Spencer. E.P. Arnold decided to call the warehouse The Merrill Company, after his son.

Demand for parts delivery in a timelier manner, and the proliferation of parts, dictated the increase in inventory both at the stores and the warehouse. The Merrill Company in Spencer has continued to grow in size from a mere 27,000 square feet to 94,000 square feet today. This is one of the very few warehouse operations that have inside loading docks which allows for the comfort of our warehouse team members to work in inclement weather. Our delivery fleet travels over one million miles a year delivering parts to our customers overnight.

Since technology has permeated the auto parts distribution system, we use scanners for inbound/outbound freight and for customer check out at the stores. We embraced on-line ordering for our customers, and we offer the ability to find invoices online. We use our web sites to sell products that promote our business. We also have embraced video conferencing for training and meetings, and have video conference points throughout our company.

We are unique to the car care industry because we are a Limited Liability Partnership. Of over 600 associates, over one in four are owners of this company. Many of the partnership pay schedules developed by our founder over 40 years ago are still in place today. The family was important to Mr. Arnold and our current leadership has embraced the same principle of taking care of our team members. Accordingly, many of our partners and associates have been with us for most of their working lives, and now their children are partners and associates.

Ranked in the Top 20 of warehouse distributors by Aftermarket Business magazine, The Arnold Group of Companies has forged new ground for continued growth in sales and profits. Our sales and technical staff led our market area in growth of our Certified Service Center program, and continue to be the source for new and progressive technical training for our professional technician customers. We are considered the leader in paint and body supply sales, and in machine shop sales, for our marketing area. All in all, the warehouse division of our company has capitalized on our business model to see consistent growth in an admittedly stressful business climate.
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MIDWEST CYLINDER HEAD
We have been in the machine shop business since 1929. As opposed to most auto parts store chains, we find it to be a profitable segment of our business. Nineteen of our parts stores have full machine shops. Together with Midwest Cylinder Head and Machine, our engine-rebuilding factory in Nevada, Iowa, we have enjoyed a sound reputation for producing quality work at a fair price.

Midwest Cylinder Head and Machine can repair and recondition cracked or otherwise damaged aluminum and cast iron cylinder heads and cylinder blocks to like new condition. We also specialize in exchange and custom cylinder head and cylinder block welding, reconditioning and repair, both in aluminum and cast iron, gas and diesel applications.

We repair agricultural, automotive, truck and heavy equipment engines and related parts, including, but not limited to, rock shaft housings, transmission housings, and various cast iron welding. We provide our services to individuals, machine shops, auto/truck/diesel/agricultural/heavy equipment repair shops, and engine remanufacturers, from the smallest to the largest applications.

Our customers range from the United States military to antique tractor enthusiasts whose attention to detail rivals that of most ardent hotrod aficionados. This division has capitalized on the use of electronic marketing that has brought in customers from all over the world. If no one else can fix it, we probably can.
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INDUSTRIAL PAINT SOLUTIONS
What started as recognition of an under-served market, our industrial coatings division has grown since our partnership formed the first unit in 1996. We initially called the division The Arnold Group Commercial Performance Coatings, which focused on selling industrial paint to light duty manufacturers around the area.

Thanks to a combination of spectacular people and timely delivery, the division grew to the point that in 2003, we purchased Industrial Paint Supply, an industrial coatings distributor in Omaha which is now located in the Specialty Sales Warehouse. A third location was added in Rock Island, IL in 2012.

These three units make up what is now called Industrial Paint Solutions. They cover a trade area of portions of five states and are now considered one of PPG's largest industrial coatings distributors in the United States. They focus not only on the traditional liquid coatings, but also have become experts in powder coating, aircraft, sign paint, and specialized military coatings. Some of their customers include airplane rebuilders, large and small fleets of trucking companies, manufacturers, The U.S. Army, and sign companies.

The goal of Industrial Paint Solutions is built upon the concept of increasing sales and profits through training, marketing, and improving the operational efficiencies of our customers. Because people still buy from people, we strive to set our team apart from those of our competition. We continually make an investment in our team members so that they are the best that they can be.
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AUTO REFINISH SOLUTIONS
Auto Refinish Solutions was formed to sell and service spray booths to body shops and manufacturers in the three-state area around Sioux City, IA. The division was started in the backroom of the Arnold Motor Supply auto parts store in Sioux City. The business has now been moved to our new building in Spencer, Iowa with additional facilities in Rock Island, IL and Atlantic, IA.

Our manufacturer-authorized technicians can install and maintain GFS Spray booths as well as other brands. We distribute Air Flow Technology filtration media to the automotive, industrial, and aerospace industries. We also offer a full-range of dust and fume extraction systems. Customers come to us for lifting equipment, gun washers, solvent recyclers as well as equipment to meet all compressed air needs, plus a complete line of collision repair parts as well as radiators and condensers.
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