Hitchcock's Auto Parts is turning 100 years old, and they are showing their appreciation to the community where it was established back in 1923, with Chuck Hitchcock opening a business that would become one of the oldest and most popular companies in town.
New owner Dustin Hooper and his wife, Berenice, will take over the business on Jan. 1, in a process that will be a slow transition, giving the new owners a chance to soak up the wisdom and advice of longtime owner Jesse Escobedo. Escobedo decided that it was time to step away and spend more time with his family, giving them as much as he can while he is still "young enough to enjoy it."
Hitchcock's will be celebrating with a customer appreciation day on Wednesday, Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., giving away popcorn and tacos, and having raffles for attendees. The public is invited.
The business has been a mainstay in Shafter because of its customer service and the importance of personal attention to the customer that a small town business can give. "Chuck told me a long time ago, which I still remember, "Jesse, people can get their parts about anywhere, but service is the difference."
This has been a motto of the business for decades, making sure that once they get a customer, they are theirs for the long haul. "This is true," said Escobedo, who said that they have customers today that are actually fifth generation relationships. "I deal with people now who had come in with their grandparents when they were little kids, they still remember the great times that they had coming here way back then."
Hooper said that he wants to continue this family-owned and operated tradition that the company was built on. "I intend to keep the business a family-oriented company that loves its community and will always give back to those who have been so supportive of us throughout the years."
Hooper said that he intends to keep his farming business going as well, working orchards and having a hand in the grape industry.
What has changed over the years? Escobedo and Hooper said that a lot of the difference is the customer base has changed. "There are not as many small farmers as there used to be. A lot of our customers are larger companies now, but we still have those families who have been with us for decades."
Ag-related businesses are still the company's biggest customers, with the oil-related businesses decreasing over the years. "We still have a large majority of agricultural customers, even though a lot of the businesses are going with newer hybrid machines, they still are in need of parts for their diesel machines and batteries and other supplies for the newer machines.
"We will always have a faithful customer base, because of the importance of customer service that we have always had, and the faith that our customers have in us to treat them like our family," Escobedo said.
This family extends to the employees that Hitchcock's have on their staff, many being there for over a decade. Among them are Lorenzo Mebre, who said, "These are just great people to work for. Jesse and Dustin are so humble and working with them is a joy."
Jose Sanchez said that Escobedo and Hooper have done so much for him. "I just love working here for them. They have done so much for me and help me grow so much."