Monona Area Business Spotlight: T&K Cahoon Inc. NAPA

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Todd Cahoon and his wife Kathy own T&K Cahoon Inc. NAPA, located at 102 N. Main St., in Monona. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

When Todd Cahoon first joined the NAPA Auto Parts store in Guttenberg—and later Monona—decades ago, the parts business was admittedly new to him.

 

“But I’d been tinkering on cars since I was a teenager, so it wasn’t all total confusion,” he joked. “I’ve always been kind of a car guy.”

 

Now, his opinion is one of the most sought after in Monona, thanks to 25 years at the helm of T&K Cahoon, Inc. NAPA. The store, which Todd owns with wife Kathy, is located at 102 N. Main St., and sells primarily the NAPA Auto Parts line.

 

“They are our major supplier, but we do other parts too,” Todd explained.

 

Todd described the business as full service, with parts for cars, trucks, tractors, ATVs, snowmobiles and even boats. 

 

“If it runs and has a motor, people come to us looking for the part,” he quipped.

 

Even T&K Cahoon has its limits, though. Newer vehicles often contain proprietary computer technology—something Todd didn’t see much of when he first entered the parts business.

 

“Thirty years ago, cars were simpler,” he acknowledged. “The computer technology that operates cars was just on the fringe and that was all new cars. We really weren’t seeing any of that in the after market yet. We were still dealing with carburetors and old school ignitions.”

 

The industry has changed dramatically since. But customers have managed to figure it out, noted Todd. 

 

“There are a lot of customers who are sharper with computers than me and can fix their cars better than I can tell them how to do it,” he shared. “Yes, it has gotten more complicated for the Average Joe to work on his car, but not impossible.”

 

“Then there is still the nuts and bolts fixing of a car,” he added. “When your wheel bearing gets bad, just take it off and put a new one on. We still sell a lot of those parts.”

 

While some people have taken to purchasing parts for their vehicles online, Todd is a proponent of shopping local.

 

He’s seen customers hitch a ride or walk a few blocks to the store because their car was sitting in the driveway, torn apart, when they realized an additional part was needed.

 

“We see it all the time when somebody buys parts, and they only own one vehicle,” Todd said. “That would be a real inconvenience if they had to mail order a part and wait three days. This store is very handy.”

 

Not that NAPA hasn’t embraced technology. According to Todd, customers can look up and price NAPA parts online. The app will tell them if the Monona location has it.

 

“They can order it, we set it aside and they come and pick it up later. I’d rather see people use that than order a part off Amazon,” he said.

 

Even if his store doesn’t carry a part, Todd works with other area NAPA locations—and other parts stores in general—to find what someone needs.

 

Sometimes, people are surprised what they find, noted Todd.

 

“I’ve had a guy walk in the store and say, ‘I’ve been to five parts stores around.’ Or truck drivers and traveling salesman will walk in. They’re not from the area but they’ll say, ‘Every time I’m in a town, I’ll stop at a parts store because I’ve been looking for this mounting bracket for the shock absorber on my ‘59 Edsel and I can’t find one.’ It helps people find the dangdest things,” he said.

 

Todd also feels customers don’t just want a part, but someone to talk to if they have ideas or questions.

 

“I enjoy talking to people. Sometimes, that’s about all I do,” he joked. 

 

People will often explain what’s going on with their vehicle. 

 

“They’ll ask, ‘What do you think is wrong with it?’ There’s lot of that,” Todd said. 

 

“Sometimes, people will come in and say, ‘I’m looking at buying such and such a car. Have you ever had a problem with it?’” he continued. “I’ll tell them people are constantly in buying left front wheel bearings. Cars are prone to stuff like that.”

 

Many customers have been with Todd through all 25 years his business has operated. 

 

Some were teenagers then, tinkering with cars like Todd once did.

 

“Then I’ve seen them open their own shop,” he said. “I’ve been working with a lot of the same shops since they opened.”

 

Although he isn’t currently working on a project of his own, Todd enjoys hearing about others’ vehicles as well.

 

“It’s fun to see a guy who’s been in the store 100 times working on his car, then see it in the Hay Days parade,” he said.

 

Todd is grateful for the support he’s gotten over the years, and is happy to return it.

 

“We’ve got a good customer base,” he reflected. “I want to thank all the customers I’ve had over the years.”

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