HAMMOND | A family that has long been synonymous with car parts in Hammond is selling off its last business, one that gave extra speed to weekend racers nationwide.
Fred and Don Van Senus are selling their performance parts distribution center for an undisclosed sum to Meyer Distributing, Inc., a southern Indiana-based market and distributor of specialty automotive parts. Fred Van Senus, CEO of Vehicle Specialties Inc. or VSI, wanted to retire and decided to hand the business off to Meyer because it was a good fit.
"I'm 70 years old. I've been in the business for 52 years, and that's long enough," he said. "It's been a good run for me in a fantastic industry."
Meyer has 46 locations across the United States, including on both the east and west coasts. The company plans to keep the VSI's 60,000-square-foot warehouse on New Jersey Avenue open, retain all 55 employees and put John Simmons of Munster in charge. VSI provides auto parts stores around the country with parts for hot rod enthusiasts, drag racers, and weekend race car drivers.
"We are very eager to enter the performance industry wholeheartedly with this acquisition. VSI is very well respected among customers and suppliers so it's a great fit," said Nick Gramelspacher, VP of Sales and Marketing at Meyer. "Being able to offer legendary product lines such as MSD, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, and many others across our nationwide network is of great excitement and opportunity."
In 2012, the Van Senus family sold their namesake auto parts stores in Hammond and Highland to Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Auto-Wares Inc. Fred Van Senus Sr. opened the first store in Hammond in 1943. The family spun off Vehicle Specialties Inc. in 1979 because Fred Van Senus Jr. had an interest in hobby racing – think a Saturday night at the Illinana Speedway in Schererville – and thought there was a market for distributing racing parts.
He was right. VSI shipped performance parts all over the country, and to international markets, including South America, New Zealand and Switzerland. The company sold a wide array for custom racing equipment, such as super coils, cyclone intake manifolds and super stock spiral plug sets.
VSI won a performance warehouse distributor of the year award for the United States in 1998, and Fred Van Senus was a national pioneer of the performance industry award in 2003.
"VSI fits into Meyer’s logistical network very well," said Jeff Braun, CFO of Meyer. "Shipping small parts has always been a specialty for VSI, but with Meyer’s fleet we can transport racing seats and slicks, superchargers, fuel cells and a whole host of other bulky performance parts faster and cheaper than the industry standard."
Fred Van Senus has been fielding hundreds of phone calls from people from all over the country, after work spread he was getting out of the business. The Munster resident is looking forward to spending more time with his wife of 48 years and his grandchildren.