What will happen to hundreds of salvage vehicles sitting on 25 hilly acres overlooking Clearwater Paper in East Lewiston is not clear as Forest Auto Parts closes today.
An affiliated business, Forest Towing, will continue to operate 24 hours a day. The vice president of Forest Auto Parts, Eric Forest, who is employed by Hells Canyon Harley-Davidson in Lewiston, declined to be interviewed for this story.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has no requirements it will have to follow as it closes, according to the agency. The land and several shops on the property together have an assessed value of about $625,000, according to the Nez Perce County assessor.
Old school buses form an informal fence around the property that is so large it is divided by roads to provide access to the cars and other vehicles.
Forest Auto Parts was founded in 1961 by Sheldon R. Forest, who died just 10 years later during a business trip to Chicago. Other members of the Forest family continued to operate the business.
Forest Auto Parts played an important role in saving many people in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley money on vehicle repairs, often without them even realizing it, said Dave Kavanaugh, owner and a founder of PDQ Import Repair, which has been in business since 1988.
The business bought cars that had been wrecked or abandoned or were no longer working, Kavanaugh said. “They strip them and sell the usable parts from them.”
The used parts typically cost half as much as new ones, Kavanaugh said.
In some older cars, used parts may be the only option, Kavanaugh said. “It’s sad they are leaving. … I’m going to miss them.”
And while the parts Forest Auto Parts sold typically had thousands of miles on them, the business was careful about what it sold.
Kavanaugh remembers an instance when he asked for a part and was told by an employee that he had one but he wouldn’t sell it to him. It took Kavanaugh a moment before he realized the reason was the part was damaged.
“They don’t sell problems,” Kavanaugh said. “They were reputable and trustworthy.”
The area still has at least one other business – Central Grade Auto Parts – that provides the same service. But without Forest Auto Parts, repair places will have to use Spokane businesses more often, Kavanaugh said.
That means that customers may have longer waits and higher costs for parts because of transportation, Kavanaugh said. “(Forest Auto Parts) used to even deliver to shops. It’s kind of handy.”