JEGS Automotive celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2020. The high-performance parts company will highlight its six decades of existence with various themed racecars competing on the NHRA drag racing circuit.
Jeg Coughlin Sr. never imagined the success his small speed shop would achieve when he first started it in an unremarkable building in downtown Columbus. He was young at the time and in love with hot rodding. His initial desire to make his car faster with better parts soon expanded to include helping others achieve the same. He was the only supplier in the region, and with the founder’s willingness to share, JEGS swiftly became a favorite among local racers.
“Dad has always been the best teacher I’ve ever known,” said John Coughlin, oldest of the four brothers who currently own and operate the family business. “He is an exceptional father and a wonderful businessman and counsel, and although he likes to give credit to everyone else, without him none of this would be possible.
“He had a simple philosophy very early on and we’ve pretty much just stuck to it. He always says, ‘Keep it simple. Give the customers what they want, when they want it, at a great price, and back it up with the best customer service in the business.’ Through all the growth, we’ve kept to that line of thinking.”
Doing so has paid off exceptionally well. JEGS Automotive ships out over a million packages yearly to customers the world over. More than 400 associates work at JEGS’ headquarters in Delaware, Ohio, at the 225,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center and two call centers. Their customer service department has consistently scored the highest marks in the auto industry.
“I look to our associates and credit them with our growth,” Troy Coughlin said. “We have one person celebrating 50 years with us very soon and a bunch more have passed the 40- and 30-year marks. My brother John just passed 40 years himself right before Christmas.
“Dad always told us to surround ourselves with good people that have great values and integrity. We have a saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen working with ladies and gentlemen.’ We know if you treat people right they will work hard for you and that has proven to be true so many times. Our associates believe in the same virtues we do. None of us feel like this is a job, per se; it’s a big extended family and we all love coming in every day.”
John, Troy, Mike and Jeg Jr. bought JEGS from their father three decades ago, meaning they’ve held the reigns on the company for half its life. It was primarily these four who moved the company from a mainly catalog-based format to an Internet platform, improving response and delivery times significantly.
As far as marketing, the same ideals held by Jeg Sr. endure today: Perform well on the racetrack and share your technology with your customers. Over the last 20 years, JEGS has created its own line of products, now numbering more than 20,000 items to accompany the 1M parts they already offer.
A vast majority of JEGS parts are “Track Tested” in racecars driven by various members of the Coughlin family, who excel on the track as well as in the company. Jeg Jr. alone can claim six world championships and 82 of the family’s combined 125 national event titles.
“The basic idea of showing our customers what various high-performance parts can do to make them quicker, faster and/or more consistent by using them ourselves comes from our father,” Jeg Jr. said. “We’re still doing it to this day and it remains a very effective sales tool. These efforts, along with constant feedback from the racing community, allows us to stay at the forefront with our products and communication.
“It’s such an honor to continue my father’s legacy and it should be noted he remains a very big part of the company. We all know he’s just a phone call away, whether we need advice on the business or on our racecars. Nine out of 10 times, he’s already encountered whatever problem we are facing and has a quick answer.”
Mike also boasts a formidable record on the quarter-mile, as his father did back in the company’s infancy.
“JEGS started when Dad began ordering parts from the back of hot rod magazines from guys out on the west coast,” Mike said. “That was the only way you could get stuff back then. He’d put those parts on his car and go out on weekends and beat everyone, and pretty soon they started asking what made him so fast. Instead of keeping it to himself, he started ordering extra parts and selling them to his friends. It spread from there and now look at what it’s become. It’s remarkable.
“It’s still a lot of fun to walk through the original building on 11th Avenue, which is still in operation, look at the old photos and see what Dad started 60 years ago. I am very thankful and proud to be a part of something he created. I love what I do. I think we all do. Dad’s passion has turned out to be our passion as well.”