Karen Cust has been with Bumper-to-Bumper in Morinville for 40 years. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
Bumper-to-Bumper Manager Karen Cust has been on the job at the Morinville business for 40 years—officially—42 if you include her part-time years.
“It feels like it went very quickly,” Cust said. “I’m not sure that it feels like 40 years or how that happened.”
Cust started working for the store in 1977 or 1978, but her official start date was Jan. 1, 1979.
“It started off as my summer job,” she said. “I was in university, and I just stayed one year. I’ve had several maternity leaves in there so you could be arguing it’s not 40 years. But in those days, you were lucky to get six months of maternity leave.”
Looking back 40 years ago paints a different picture of the business both in size and how the work gets done.
“It was our little old building,” Cust said of the businesses early days. There was my self and Simone and O’Neal [Chevalier],” Cust recalled. “I took over from Lil Boddez. Then she went off to work for what was Calgary Power at the time.”
In her early years, Cust drove the truck to pick up parts in Edmonton. She was also in charge of tracking inventory in and out of the store.
“I put the store on cards. It was the old Cardex system,” she said. “Everything was dated and stamped. In those days there were no computers.”
Once a year, she’d spend her May long weekend with other employees and volunteers to do manual inventory. “We’d shut for the weekend and count everything by hand,” she said.
Much has changed over the years, including the number of women in the industry.
“It is commonplace today. At that time, it was a little bit more odd to see women in this type of industry. Now it doesn’t matter. You can see our store is populated by a majority of females. That’s not always the way. It is its still a very male-dominated industry. We have wonderful customers here, but not everyone does.”
Another change is the growth of the business, including their recent move to their larger 100 Avenue store.
“It was a lot of walking at first. I thought everything took longer to do because of the distances, but I love it,” Cust said. “It’s large. It seems calmer because we’re not on top of each other.”
After four decades serving auto parts customers, it is the people and the newness that has kept her there.
“O’Neal and Simone were wonderful to work for. Just wonderful,” Cust said of her first bosses. “So kind, and I learned a lot. O’Neal’s teaching style was different. He’d leave me at the counter and say, “Help that customer.” That was it. I learned quickly.
Cust is still learning something new all the time.
“I learn something new every day. From the people that walk in the door and my counter staff. Every day, I learn something new.”