A History of JEGS
JEGS is synonymous with racing parts. Like many small businesses that have become large ones, JEGS has humble beginnings stretching back more than 60 years. Let's dig in and discover more about how JEGS became an iconic part of the automotive parts industry.
A passion for racing
For many business owners, the drive to succeed is fueled by wanting to make a product or service more accessible to others. In the case of JEGS, the owner, Jeg Coughlin Sr. had a love for hot rods and street racing as a young man in the late 1950s. He wanted to be able to go faster than stock cars would allow, but it was difficult — or very slow — to find the aftermarket parts he needed in the area where he lived in the Midwest.
Other racers noticed the performance of Jeg's vehicles as he slowly upgraded them through mail order parts that could take weeks, if not months, to arrive. Jeg wanted to be able to provide these people with the ability to buy parts locally so that everyone could enjoy the thrill of speed that comes from higher performance modifications.
In 1960, JEGS Speed Shop opened in Columbus, Ohio. At 4,000 square feet, the shop wasn’t very big, but it was a good start. By design, JEGS was a garage and a parts store. The garage gave him a place to work on cars belonging to him and his friends while using the rest of his time scouting for parts that he could buy to resell at his shop. People began to come to JEGS for the knowledge and experience, as the workers, as well as Jeg himself, had used the parts before and could readily make recommendations to fit their needs.
A racing family
When the time came, JEGS made a smooth transition to Jeg’s four sons — Jeg Jr, Mike, Troy, and John — taking over the business. The new generation recognized the growth potential and while JEGS had been known locally for most of the last 30 years, they would soon become a household name — at least in hot rod parts. The business grew to a 10,00 square foot warehouse with a retail store, call center, and chassis shop.
As a racing team, JEGS dominated, with their company team taking home National Hot Rod Association division wins. That's successful! Their black and yellow vehicles stand out well on the racetrack — and say “mail order” next to the blocky yellow and black JEGS logo.
JEGS is well known for their print catalog. The catalog started in 1989, followed by a 1-800 number a few years later to encourage longer, non-local phone calls so that customers could speak with knowledgeable salespeople. The phone number 1-800-345-4545 is easy to remember as well. By the early ‘90s, JEGS printed a full color catalog, then began catering to work-all-day, play-all-night racers with 24/7 ordering ability.
By 1995, JEGS had begun to master a problem which had been impossible even in the 1970s: a highly organized ability to deliver nationwide within 1-2 days. This was perfect for the racing team that had a last-minute part failure and couldn't find their hardware locally.
Mail order in the internet era
There are companies that don't transition well as times change and become out of sync with current trends. JEGS avoided this when they built a 10,000 square foot retail store and a 225,000 square foot warehouse and corporate headquarters in Delaware, Ohio. The headquarters is quite unique, with salespeople and a state-of-the-art internal warehouse delivery system that allows orders to go out quickly, allowing them to keep up with the faster-paced internet era. Using a three-level flow and rack system along with conveyor belts, their whole process is better timed than the belts in your car and more organized than the average sock drawer. They even built a racing themed cafeteria where their salespeople and office employees can meet and share lunch.
What sets them apart?
According to the JEGS website, one of the things that sets JEGS apart is its sales crew. They have a team of people who actually use their parts and love to wrench, so they are able to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.” While other websites offer an impersonal service or no real retail store, you can readily develop a relationship with JEGS if you want one. They also offer fast shipping, with their state-of-the-art, super-efficient warehouse.
JEGS also works with an enormous number of products; more than 600 vendors, and 2 million individual products are available to make racing better, faster, and safer.
In February 2022, a private equity firm bought majority ownership of JEGS which means that technically, JEGS will no longer be family owned. JEGS had been actively seeking a new CEO with mail order experience, but instead took an offer from Greenbriar Equity, which focuses on supply chains and engineering. It is generally believed that both JEGS and Greenbriar have a focus on growing the business even more. For a company that has clear and significant experience in mail order businesses, the Greenbriar firm seems to bring an exciting future where JEGS can continue to provide the right people with the right knowledge, while another company handles the logistics of competing in an e-Commerce-based world.