LOVING WINTER: PIECES AND PARTS
COVENTRY – Few will argue that one of the happiest places on earth, as far as snowmobiling is concerned, is the Northeast Kingdom. Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse in the heart of the Northeast Kingdom is well prepared to fill the needs of the snowmobile enthusiast, not only in Vermont but worldwide as well.Al Briere, president of Al’s Snowmobile Warehouse, started the business in a garage behind his home 29 years ago. Initially, the business was a hobby for Briere. That hobby has expanded every year since. Today, it’s the largest distributor of used parts in the country. When necessary, the staff tears apart used and brand new snowmobiles just for the parts. Some of the sleds have never been run before.“The demand is there,” said Briere of the parts. This is especially true for brand new pieces. “If someone wrecks one, the manufacturers don’t even have the parts for the brand new sleds.”Tearing apart a new snowmobile doesn’t bother Briere one bit. “That’s how we make our living,” he said. Separate parts from one sled can cost more than one whole sled. “The only secret is you have to be able to sell every part.”Staff from Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse tears apart twice as many sleds than they actually sell as whole sleds. Al’s Snowmobile sells all the brands of sleds, from antique to brand new.“We ship them all over the world now,” said Briere. “We ship them in containers.”Briere has refused offers to become a dealer because the company would not be allowed to sell competitor brands.“We’d be throwing away the business we built over 29 years,” said Briere. “We’re not on the Derby Road, but people come here from Connecticut, New York….”Al's customer base started with locals and word of mouth. After a couple years, Briere obtained more stock than warranted the local market, so he started attending different snowmobile events. He ended up with a motorhome and went to shows all over the country. Thanks to the Internet, Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse is known worldwide. Briere, with a desire to semi-retire, stopped traveling four years ago.Briere's best year in 27 years was 2010. He said there was a lot of snow. Because of a lack of snow, 2011 was a bad year. Briere predicts this season will be good.“We have the snow, the cold weather is here,” said Briere. It’s the usual below zero temperatures. “We’re going to have a great winter. The people who didn’t get to use the snowmobiles are chopping at the bit to get out there and we have the snow.”Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse opened a rental facility in Jay Village. The firm offers guided tours to tourists and locals.