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ENGAGED IN THE INDUSTRY: 2009 Counter Professional of the Year, Thomas Dayton

By Mark Phillips

If you ever want to know Thomas Dayton’s level of dedication to automotive aftermarket parts distribution, just drive behind his pickup truck or send him an email.
Mark Phillips

If you ever want to know Thomas Dayton’s level of dedication to automotive aftermarket parts distribution, just drive behind his pickup truck or send him an email.

Sure, there’s a large blue ASE sticker on the driver’s side rear window. But look a little lower and you’ll find his license plate, “ASE P2.” And then there’s his email address. It also has “ase_p2” in it.

2009 Counter Professional of the Year, Thomas Dayton
Dayton, the assistant manager of J S Auto Supply in Jamestown, N.Y., is Counterman magazine’s 2009 Counter Professional of the Year, sponsored by Affinia, Wix and Raybestos Brake & Chassis. In early November, he and his wife, Jessica, received an all-expense paid trip to the AAPEX show in Las Vegas, where he received his award at the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association recognition luncheon.

Dayton first got into parts as a profession in 1996, due in part to his ownership at the time of a 1979 Chevy Nova. “Like anyone with a 1979 Nova, I also spent a lot of time at my local parts store,” he recalls in his entry for the Counter Professional of the Year award. “Neither the Nova nor the college tuition proved to be very wise investments, and I soon found myself printing invoices at that parts store, instead of just paying them.”

It didn’t take long for Dayton to feel right at home, he said. “I knew I liked the business,” he said. “I like the technical aspects of it and as cheesy as it may sound, I enjoyed helping people and using my brain. I’m self-taught in a lot of what I know,” he said, “It’s about needing to find an answer. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”

He’s been with J S Auto Supply for three years. Jamestown, N.Y., a city of about 30,000 people, is surrounded by smaller rural villages and towns. The store employs four full-time counterpeople, an outside salesman and nine part-time drivers. The store serves customers in an approximate 30-mile radius, and the mix of commercial vs. retail clients is about 80-20.
“I’m not just selling coil springs. I’m selling knowledge,” Dayton says. “Our professional technician customers may not need it that much, obviously, but for other people who come in here, I hope I can be of help.”

He originally attended Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and spent three years pursuing a degree in natural resources management. “I was going to be a forest ranger,” he recalls, but he changed his mind and instead co-owned a dairy farm for a time.

This fall, he began taking distance-learning courses at Alfred State College at his wife’s urging. He devotes at least 20 hours per week to his Alfred State studies in addition to working a full schedule at J S Auto Supply. “It always kind of bothered me that I didn’t finish my degree,” he said. “My wife encouraged me. I think if I was going to go back and get a degree, it should be in something I enjoy.”

Dayton believes counter professionals must further their education not only to stay up to date with training, but to bolster the reputation amongst the general public and technicians.

Dan Backus, owner of J S Auto Supply, Jamestown, N.Y.
“You can find well-educated, well-staffed parts stores everywhere,” he said. “But not all parts stores out there meet those criteria. If a customer has a bad experience with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, it affects all of us.”
He also participates in as many online training courses as possible. He attends at least three manufacturer’s technical training seminars each year. “I am constantly ‘in-training’, as I discover new sources of information and knowledge. I look at it as an investment in my career,” he wrote for his essay submitted for the award.

His professor at Alfred State, Jerry Ives, was himself a 2002 Counter Professional of the Year recipient. Dayton had become very familiar with Alfred State because, in addition to having grown up in the area, he serviced the school’s repair shop program by providing parts to the school’s on-campus jobber store. Ives believes Dayton is very deserving of the recognition he’s receiving. “It’s great having Tom as a student,” said Ives, who is an assistant professor in the school’s parts technology department.

“He’s that certain type of individual our industry needs; someone who is dedicated and willing to continue his education to help develop the skills and knowledge to meet the challenges in an ever-changing industry.”

Dayton has received five ASE accreditations and also holds the Auto International Association (AIA) base and master’s level import specialist certifications.

Dan Backus, owner of J S Auto Supply, says Dayton’s drive and attention to detail are invaluable and are essential to running a store well. “Tom does a great job,” Backus said. “All I have to say is, ‘Hey, I’m leaving’ and he takes over. And I don’t have to worry about a thing. That’s all any business owner could ever ask for.”

Curt Burdick, who hired Dayton at another parts store, said, “I hired him to work for me because I liked his
demeanor. You knew he was something special. “I always knew his hard work would pay big dividends.”

  Previous Comments
avatar   Shannon Ashbaugh   star   1/10/2010   12:56 PM

Very proud of you and your accomplishment! Awesome job!

avatar   Nick   star   1/7/2010   12:53 PM

you forgot to thank baby jesus

avatar   MORGAN CHESTER   star   1/3/2010   1:24 PM


avatar   Tom Dayton   star   12/24/2009   11:39 AM

It is my distinct pleasure to represent the over 40,000 ASE-certified parts specialists working on the front lines every day. Over the years, I have worked with a number of excellent parts people, and they deserve accolades as well. Brian Pratt (where are you these days, anyway?), Barry Bailey, Don Comstock, Shannon Ashbaugh, Al Mosher, CURT BURDICK (still my hero!), Ed Landries (Happy Birthday, pal!), Margaret Reese, Chip Hamilton, Mark Waterman, Terry Telschow, Rich Jaroszynski, Dan Backus, Michael Gordon, Eric Lyons, Bob Conti, Mike Smith, Brenda Monaco, and Jason Foster. Thanks for all you do and have done all these years!

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