Retired Firefighter Opens New Auto Parts Business In Abilene
ABILENE, TX – No matter how unpredictable and dynamic life may become, businessman Paul Gerstner of Burkburnett, TX, has a way of making the most of it.
He initially worked in the oil field in the Wichita Falls area after graduating from high school in the late 1970’s. He later joined the Fire Department of Wichita Falls in 1981. Currently, he is the part-owner and President of 1-800-RADIATOR & AC.
Paul was a firefighter for 26 years with the Fire Department of Wichita Falls. There he performed the duty of Fire Equipment Operator, which meant he drove the fire truck. He later retired at the age of 51.
How does a retired firefighter end up as the co-owner of 1-800-RADIATOR & AC, one may ask? Paul said he was planning on retiring at the age of 55 but decided on doing it almost 4 years earlier. He was looking for some business opportunities when he found the ad online saying that 1-800-RADIATOR & AC was looking to sell franchises in Wichita Falls.
He then talked to a guy who worked with him at the fire department and also at an auto body shop on his days off. Paul went back to him and asked, ”Where do you get your radiators and condensers, the stuff at your body shop.” His friend then proceeded to tell him about 1-800-RADIATOR & AC. ”I’d never heard of it before,” Paul admitted.
Now that Mr. Gerstner knew that the company meant business, he decided to go all-in. It was a great choice as well because 1-800-RADIATOR & AC is the nation’s largest wholesaler of radiators and sells over 1 million per year. Pretty remarkable right? Well that is only the beginning. 1-800-RADIATOR & AC also sells other auto parts like fan assemblies, catalytic converters, intercoolers, condensers, A/C kits, fuel pumps along with offering same day delivery and a lifetime warranty on all radiators they sell.
The main customers for them are mostly repair shops, body and collision shops, dealerships, commercial vehicles shops and some parts stores. However, there are some retail sales if someone walks in and knows what they want to buy.
Paul loved his career and fellow firefighters, he says proudly that he is a better leader and more determined as a business owner because of his career as a firefighter. “I learned you don’t quit until you get the job done. Because when you’re at an emergency scene, you can’t get tired or quit. You gotta keep doing it till you get the job done”, he says.
He met his wife right after he joined the fire department and has been married to Tammy for the past 38 years. They have two daughters, Amanda, who is a nurse, and Elizabeth, a school teacher. Both daughters have two children of their own, a boy and a girl.
The other co-owner and business partner is Joseph Casteen. He is also Paul’s son-in-law. Before partnering with Paul, he worked at Sheppard Air Force Base as a Base Exchange manager in Wichita Falls, TX.
When Paul first suggested that Joseph should come work for 1-800-RADIATOR & AC, Joseph, who is married to Elizabeth, had his doubts that it might make things complicated for his relationship with his father-In-law. Right before the couple was about to have their daughter, he decided to make the switch. Things have been going great and Joseph has covered almost every position in the company. He has used his experience from working at the Air Force base and his business skills.
Family businesses can be complicated, but the two men have been able to maintain a nice and calm professional environment. Even if they sometimes disagree. The two work to find solutions on common grounds, Paul said.
Paul first met Joseph when his future son-in-law was in 8th grade and playing with a friend at Joseph’s house. Paul lived four houses away from him and his daughter went to the same school.
Joseph was called by his father about a man who wanted to talk to him. Paul was a good-sized guy and started asking questions. He asked him if the two kids had been hanging out with his daughter and her friend.
Joseph recalls, “And he was like, “Have you two kids been hanging out with my daughter and her friend?” Yeah, you know, neighborhood kids were hanging out. Next thing I know he just yells, Stay the hell away from them! Come to find out my dad put him up to it. But at that time, I’m thinking this large man is going to try to hurt me badly. So, like I’m just speechless just standing there was like oh, no, what’s going on?”
This did not stop the young man from seeing his high school sweetheart and eventually marrying her. Even though it was his dad who instigated the prank, there was no way he could have known the huge man he was fearing would one day become his father-in-law and business partner.
Paul started his first franchise of 1-800-Radiator & AC in Wichita Falls in June of 2007. He chose Abilene as the location for his second franchise and opened July of last year. When asked about why he decided to choose this city to open the new business location, he answered, “It’s a lot like Wichita Falls. I like Abilene because I am familiar with the type of people that live here. You know, it’s got the Air Force Base, I like Air Force people because well, my dad was in the Air Force and we got the Air Force Base up there. We got the universities. We got a small college in Wichita Falls.”
Apart from the likeness for Air Force people, colleges, and similar demographics, there is another thing that drew Paul to Abilene. It was the golf course. Paul Gerstner loves to spend his free time playing golf. He seems to have free time now as his son-in-law takes care of a lot of business-related things.
Another reason for the move is because the city of Abilene is growing at a fast pace and people like Paul Gerstner are among the entrepreneurs who have seen the potential and want to become a part of the boom.
Anyone looking for radiators and AC parts can head on over to 1-800-RADIATOR & AC at 100 North Jefferson Street Abilene TX 79603 or call them up at 1(800) 723-4286. A little surprise they give is the free bags of candy whenever they deliver a part. Other than providing great auto parts and services, this is one of the things that 1800-RADIATOR & AC is known for within the automotive community. Some guys at the local auto businesses even request certain types of candy when they drop off a part.
For over 30 years, Paul worked in the oilfield and was a firefighter. He now spends his time looking over the business and playing golf in his free time. His family has been an anchor for him his whole life. With his son-in-law Joseph helping him manage and grow the business. Gives him a little more time to spend with his grandkids, who he adores. If you were to ask Paul, life is pretty good but the best is yet to come.