There are drivers in Tahiti and the Australian Outback whose Jeeps run better today because Peter Catanese III recognizes a good suggestion when he hears it.
Catanese, 32, is the brains behind JustForJeeps.com, a Web site that has transformed his family's dealership outside Boston into a go-to source for Mopar parts for Jeep vehicles worldwide.
The Web site, which was started seven years ago, draws about 3,000 visitors a day and generates dozens of parts orders that are shipped all over the world daily -- including tropical islands and Down Under.
In 2011, JustForJeeps.com generated almost $2 million in Internet-based parts sales.
"We'll ship everywhere. I've shipped Jeep parts to places that I never thought I would," Catanese said.
He started at the dealership shortly after finishing college, earning a bachelor's in psychology from the College of the Holy Cross in 2002, and worked in the dealership's Internet sales department for new vehicles. But he didn't like it.
"It wasn't my thing," he explained. One day in 2004, the dealership's Mopar sales rep was visiting and told Catanese how a dealer in upstate New York was turning a profit by selling Mopar parts online. She suggested Catanese do the same.
Catanese took her suggestion and ran. He started JustForJeeps.com by himself in a closet in the dealership, often taking just a single order a day. He now has a full retail store in the dealership, with six employees taking 40 or 50 orders a day.
"He's the owner's son, but you'd never know it," said Tom Eysie, general sales manager of Central Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram. "He's done an amazing job with the JustForJeeps program."
Asked whether he ever thanked the dealership's Mopar rep for her suggestion that led to millions in additional sales, Catanese laughed: "She's the one thanking me because they're the ones making all the money."
-- Larry P. Vellequette