Merge with Osborn-Abston and The Automotive Company
In 1932, Crow-Burlingame formed a relationship with two other leading regional auto parts companies: The Memphis based Osborn-Abston Company and the Fort Smith based The Automotive Company. Together this trio was called The Osborn, Crow & Yantis Company, or OYC. At that time, it was the largest buying group in the country with 11 stores in the Memphis group, 10 stores in the Little Rock group and 6 stores in the Fort Smith group. The main office was in Memphis where the purchasing negotiations took place. The head of purchasing was “Pop Scates”, and from the formation to its end, he was one of the most influential people in the parts business.
CBCo was Established
Bob and Judge went to St. Louis. They did not come back with an automobile, but they did return with an idea for a company: an accessory business for car dealers. Crow-Burlingame Co. was founded as an Arkansas corporation in June 1919 and opened at 3rd and Cumberland Street. Two friends, formed an automobile accessory company, selling to the states car dealers many of the items which now come as standard equipment. Originally, automobiles were shipped without bumpers, horns, headlights, wheels or “snubbers” (a leather strap that helped cushion the bumps in the road - today we call it “shock absorbers”) or more common accessories. It was the responsibility of the dealer to equip them the way their customers wanted. The plan was simple: from anywhere in the state, dealers could call the number “main 464” and place an order for the parts they needed. Crow-Burlingame Co. took orders by phone and shipped overnight, statewide, by train. The business was an overnight success. Although there were only 119 miles of hardtop road in Arkansas, there were 41,548 cars registered in the US. The writing was on the wall: automobiles were here to stay.
In the spring of 1903, William Robert Crow moved to Little Rock to take a job as a traveling produce salesman. On a Monday morning train to Conway, he met one of his competitors, a fellow named J.G. Burlingame. Salesmen were called “drummers” in those days. They accidentally met several times that week while calling on customers and again at the end of the week on the train ride home. Mr. Burlingame, who was several years older than Bob Crow, invited him to his home for Sunday dinner and to meet Mrs. Burlingame. The following week, on the train out to the territory, Mr. Burlingame suggested Bob leave the local boarding house and move in to the Burlingame’s home. Mr. Crow accepted, living there until he married seven years later. This living arrangement marked the beginning of a friendship that would lead to the creation of the Crow-Burlingame Company and would span 56 years until Mr. Burlingame died.
In the years between the train ride and the formation of the company, Bob Crow worked as a salesman for Karcher Candy while Judge Burlingame was a wholesale grocer. They made extra money by selling cars on the side. At that time, there were no car dealerships. Instead cars were displayed at the National Automotive Show in St Louis where individuals looked at various dealer offerings and then purchased a car they thought would become popular. Mr. Crow was one such investor. Each year he attended the show and returned with a car. If other people liked it, they could order one through Mr. Crow or Mr. Burlingame, who then received commission for the sale.