CAPS of Ontario manager Garrett Chamberlain talks about his store's auto parts selection and its STIHL chainsaw dealership. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – A Vale auto parts business is expanding its footprint in Malheur County with a new store in Ontario.

Derek and Claire Chamberlain, owners of Vale’s CAPS Auto Truck, decided earlier this year there was a need for quality auto parts and recently opened CAPS of Ontario on Second Street.

“Claire and I talked about it and prayed about it and thought it was a good opportunity,” said Derek Chamberlain.

He said now his businesses is more versatile.

“If we didn’t have it in stock (at the Vale store) we had to wait until the next day. So, we were looking at avenues to get more inventory,” said Chamberlain.

Demographics also played a crucial role in the decision, said Chamberlain.

Ontario already hosts three auto parts stores – O’Reilly Auto Parts, AutoZone and NAPA – but Chamberlain said the math showed it could support another one, especially if the new business offered more than just parts.

“Fruitland has 7,000 people and they don’t have an auto parts store there. Weiser has a NAPA, but if they don’t have a part you are coming this way to get it. There are roughly 40,000 people within 30 miles of Ontario,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said the 5,000-square-foot Ontario store will have a full inventory of auto parts but it will also showcase two features not at his Vale operation.

 “It is a little different in it has a full STIHL chainsaw dealership attached to it,” he said.

Chamberlain said the Ontario store will also employ two full-time mechanics. The Vale store, he said, does not have a mechanic.

“They will work on small engines, side-by-sides, four-wheelers,” said Chamberlain.

The mechanics, said Chamberlain, set his new store apart from firms like O’Reilly Auto Parts, AutoZone and NAPA.

“We are the only ones out of all of those that offer more than auto parts. We can sell STIHL chainsaws along with Husqvarna and Toro lawnmowers and repair any of them,” said Chamberlain.

 “And we are looking into other brands of lawn mowers,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said unlike his Vale store, the new Ontario facility won’t offer tires.

“The mechanic shop is really the biggest thing,” said Chamberlain. “If someone wants to drop off a chain saw or a lawnmower, if they drop it off at our Vale store we will fix it and bring it back.”

Chamberlain said the Ontario store employs three people and he plans to hire another person by Jan. 1. When that individual is hired, Chamberlain said he will have nine employees between the Vale and Ontario stores.

Just under two years ago, the Chamberlains opened the Vale store. He said the opportunity to open a business in Ontario was just too good to pass up.

He said he and Claire were a little nervous about branching out.

“But just trusting in that if you are seeking God you are doing what you are supposed to be doing,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said he is optimistic about the business climate in Ontario.

“We think there is a huge hunger. People want to buy local and we are the only local option in Ontario. O’Reilly Auto Parts, AutoZone and NAPA are not owned locally,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said the Ontario store will offer “auto parts for all makes.”

“We go heavy in this area on pickups and truck (parts) because that is primarily what you see around here,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said the Ontario store has “been very busy on the STIHL chain saw side.”

CAPS of Ontario is at 201 Southeast 2nd Street. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.