Corrected Sept.9. Southern Auto does not buy the cars.
Members of the Tobacco Valley Chamber Alliance helped South Auto Auction in East Windsor celebrate its 65th anniversary Thursday.
The alliance held its business after hours function at Southern Auto Auction’s headquarters on Route 5. The TVCA is a strategic alliance of the Bloomfield, East Granby, East Windsor, Granby, Suffield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks Chambers of Commerce.
Southern Auto Auction is the largest independent auction in the country. It is a wholesaler which auctions used vehicles to dealers from around New England and New York.
Tribble gave a tour of the facility, explained its history and how it works to the attendees of the business after hours event.
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Begun in 1947, the business gets its name from when Lawrence G. Tribble decided to bring vehicles from the southern part of the country to auction in New England because they had less wear and tear on them, Lawrence G. Tribble Jr., the owner said Thursday. Tribble Sr. moved to East Windsor from Alpharetta, Ga.
“It was funny how he stayed up here,” Tribble said.
The business started as a one-lane auction across the street from East Windsor High School. It is now a more than 300-acre facility with 20 lanes. The auctions, to registered car dealers, happen every Wednesday and are not open to the public.
The company gets used cars from dealers, fleet managers and manufacturers, cleans and/or repairs them, then auctions them to retail dealers. During the auctions, 4,000 cars will go through the facility at a rate of 1,000 an hour, Tribble said. Twenty separate auctions will happen at the same time, he added.
“We developed it into a premier facility,” Tribble said. “It’s like no other in the U.S.”
Southern Auto has less than 200 full-time employees, but employs a lot of part-time employees. The number of employees working on an auction day can be as many as 1,000 people, Tribble said. Many of those part-time employees are retired people, he added.
The business has developed so much land along Route 5 in East Windsor, that Tribble joked part of his job was appearing at Inland Wetlands Commission meetings. However, they haven’t had any developments in the past three years or so.
Tribble said his father was one of the original investors, along with fellow Lions Club members such as Francis Revay and Emil Mulnite, who helped establish the East Windsor Industrial Park.
Southern Auto contributes to the local economy through the people it employs and the businesses that are frequented by customers who come to the auctions each week. Tribble said there are also the retail car dealerships that have located on Route 5 in East Windsor.
“There are more used car dealerships on Route 5 than any other place in the state,” Tribble said.
The East Windsor Board of Selectmen presented Tribble with street signs which have South Auto Way embossed on them.
First Selectwoman Denise Menard said Southern Auto is an “awesome business to have in town.” It employs a lot of people in the community and its customers bring a lot of traffic to other businesses in town.
Menard said Tribble has always been modest about the support he has given to such places as and the .
“They’re a great corporate citizen,” Menard said.
Tribble said he was proud to be celebrating how long his business has been around.
“I don’t know of any other business in East Windsor that’s been around 65 years,” Tribble said.