outstanding leadership award in honor of jack creamer

This annual award recognizes an individual, employed in the aftermarket, who over the past several years, has made a unique and monumental contribution to the industry and/or the association. The accomplishment that warrants this award must go well above and beyond any routine day-to-day activity and shall be reflective of a commitment to the industry that few individuals can match. This award is to be perceived as the industry's highest honor/recognition.


The Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA), a community of the Auto Care Association, presented its 2019 Outstanding Leadership Award to John P. Bartlett, Jr., executive chairman, Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH). The award was presented on Nov. 3 at AWDA’s 2019 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

Each year, AWDA bestows this prestigious award, formerly known as the “Leader of the Year,” on an aftermarket professional who has contributed to the industry in a unique and significant way. The award is named in honor of former AWDA President, Jack Creamer.

Presenting the award this year was AWDA’s 2018 Leader of the Year, Larry Pavey, president, Federated Auto Parts Distributors and co-CEO, Automotive Parts Services Group. Also participating in the presentation was John Bartlett’s son, Corey Bartlett, president and CEO, Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH).

Based in St. Cloud, Minn., APH was originally founded in 1920 as the National Bushing and Parts Company. Over the course of its 99-year history, the family- and employee-owned warehouse distribution business has grown to more than 160 locations and 1,200 employees throughout Minn., Wis., Mich., N.D., S.D. and Mont. For 45 years, John Bartlett was the driving force behind much of the company’s growth.

Like many in the industry, Bartlett was born into an aftermarket family. He grew up in a parts store and worked alongside his father, Jack Bartlett, where he learned the business from the ground up. Jack Bartlett died unexpectedly in 1976, leaving John to take over the head position at the age of only 28.

Today, his son Corey oversees APH’s business operations, while John Bartlett focuses primarily on company strategy and employee engagement in order to ensure a steady business environment for his family and employees for years to come. 

Under Bartlett’s leadership, APH has garnered multiple awards for high performance and professionalism and Bartlett himself has been widely recognized for the key role he has played in the company’s success.  In 2011, he was honored with Northwood University’s Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award and two years later, earned AWDA’s Pursuit of Excellence Award in recognition of his high standards and exceptional business performance.

“John is one of those guys that you see at meetings or events and think, ‘Wow, if I could be like him more like him, I would put myself in a better position in this industry!’,” said JC Washbish, Vice-president Marketing, Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance.

In addition to leading his company, Bartlett has also played a key role in supporting the aftermarket industry. He spent six years as a member of the Alliance’s Board of Directors and another two years as chairman. He has also served on the AWDA Board of Governors. 

Like all outstanding business leaders, Bartlett’s dedication extends far beyond his business and industry. “John and his family have always demonstrated a commitment to the many communities they serve,” said Doug Wiggin, Director of eCommerce Solutions, Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance. “It’s never just about auto parts and distribution, but also family, people and values.”

As a father of an adult child, Lee, who requires 24/7 care, Bartlett has always professionally and personally supported training and work opportunities for those with special needs. He’s an active supporter and board member of WACOSA, a nonprofit organization that connects local businesses with a workforce of more than 600 adults with disabilities. APH’s annual Chili Cook Off event efforts have raised close to $1 million in recent years for WACOSA, with John and Nancy Bartlett personally matching each donation. 

The list of APH charitable and philanthropic causes is extensive and Bartlett has passed the same spirit of philanthropy along to APH’s stores, which are equally committed to serving their local communities. When APH facilities are not in use by the company, Bartlett opens them up for use by local nonprofits.

“You just can't find a more gracious human being—just a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Jon Owens, National Sales Manager, EPICOR Software. “He makes sure he's enjoying every day and it really resonates and echoes out from him.”

Larry Northup, executive director, AWDA, agreed. “Men like John Bartlett are the heart and soul of this industry,” said Northup. “I congratulate him for this well-deserved award.” 

+ Previous award recipients


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