‘I like the people’

Nova Scotia Bumper to Bumper operations manager Florence Girrior’s passion for auto parts business fuelled by helping employees and customers alike

By Kristen Lipscombe

Florence Girrior may be one of the busiest Bumper to Bumper operations managers in Atlantic Canada, overseeing three different Nova Scotia stores, but travelling from her primary location in Antigonish to both New Glasgow and Port Hawkesbury is worth the journey every time so that she can interact directly with both her staff members and customers.

“You get to meet a lot of people,” Girrior said of her favourite part of what has been an incredible 38-year career in the auto parts business. “I like the people.”

The Antigonish native started working as a delivery driver for the local auto parts store as a summer job at just 21 years old, and despite being the only woman she knew of in the area working in what was then a male-dominated industry, she hasn’t looked back since. 

Girrior, now 57, has worked her way up the ranks from mixing paint, to serving customers at the counter, to working directly with distribution centres and delivery drivers, to her current management position. She looks at her current position more as a mentorship role, helping her employees – or team members – be the best they can be so that drivers can get their parts installed and back on the roads as quickly and safely as possible.

“I like my job of helping our staff and making sure that everyone is content and happy in their role,” she said, “and I also very much enjoy waiting on the public and helping the customers.”

Girrior still takes on any duty necessary on any given day, from sweeping floors to putting her decades of knowledge to good use by tracking down unique, specific parts from her preferred manufacturers and trusted after-market suppliers.

“You could be cleaning the toilet one day, or going to a conferences the next. You just roll with it and have fun with it.”

When she first started out in the auto parts business as a young woman, “I didn’t know the difference between a battery and a tire, hardly,” Girrior said. “But you learn, and you get better; you just take on the work.”

Girrior, whose husband George works for the Town of Antigonish’s public works department, was so dedicated to learning the automotive industry that she started taking accounting and business courses at Nova Scotia Community College to work towards her diploma and beef up on everything she needed to know to make her Bumper to Bumper locations run effectively, efficiently – and very successfully.

In fact, she took her first exam at age 50 – after her daughter, Chelsea, had moved to Champion, Alta., to work as an infection control specialist and live on her husband Garret Hagg’s family farm with their now 16-month-old son Anders.

“It is my intention to take more online classes through St. Mary’s University or St. Francis Xavier University in the coming years,” Girrior said. “I have always felt that keeping your mind active is very important. Education is never a waste of time or money!”

“I like challenges,” Girrior added of all the time and effort she has dedicated to a job she could have looked at as a temporary retail gig, but instead took on as a lifetime career that has helped her make her stores some of the most trusted auto parts stores in Atlantic Canada.

“If you’re determined and you enjoy your work and you work hard at it, they respect you for that,” Girrior said. “And I’ve always gotten a lot of respect from people and I give people a lot of respect.”

She credits Bumper to Bumper for believing in her persistence and “drive” – no pun intended –  to become that well-respected operations manager she is today. “I am very proud to work for such an encouraging organization.”

Girrior also points out that the company has since supported plenty of other women in the automotive industry. In fact, she estimates that about 30 per cent of attendees were women at a recent conference she attended in Moncton, N.B. 

“Years ago, there were hardly any, but now there are more and more. Our company just hired a couple more store managers that are women.”

Bumper to Bumper prides itself on being a “homegrown collective of car people,” and it’s clear that Girrior’s daily work reflects the company’s primary values of trust, knowledge, attention to detail and human touch.

“One of our strongest values is our human touch,” Bumper to Bumper describes on its website. “We’re not just dealing with rubber and steel; we’re dealing with people. We believe a little humanity goes a long way.”

Girrior describes the atmosphere in her stores as both “fun” and “fast-paced,” where “there’s always something different to do, you’re always learning something new … and everyone pitches in.”

It’s that team-first attitude, and the people she works with and serves on a daily basis, that continue to “fuel” – pun intended – Girrior’s passion for the auto parts business.

“I’ve made some lifetime friends through this work,” Girrior said. “It’s been a very rewarding, very good career.”

NOTE: Uni-Select Inc. and Canadian Automotive Group President and CEO Brent Windom’s statement on the auto parts industry being considered an essential service during the COVID-19 crisis is available on the Bumper to Bumper website here: https://www.bumpertobumper.ca/en/articles/covid19

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