A few months ago, we began a section of our blog titled Employee Spotlights, which introduces you to our CJ Pony Parts team and shares some of their stories about their Mustangs. Well, we think it might be time to use the Employee Spotlight to introduce you to the man behind the “CJ” in CJ Pony Parts… Jay Zeigler!
Jay’s story with Mustangs began in high school, where he first realized his passion for muscle cars. He purchased his first Mustang, a 1974 coupe, at the age of 16, and his second only a short year later. This Mustang, a ’68 coupe, was purchased for $400 in April 1984, and it was definitely a fixer upper. Jay, along with his friend Creed, began to tear the Mustang apart and work on replacing everything that they could afford at the time.
This project, along with work on a ’67 coupe for Creed, launched the pair into the local Mustang community, where they began to notice how big the demand was for Mustang parts in the central Pennsylvania area. It was at this point that the two started acquiring cheaper Mustangs and parting them out, using the barn at Creed’s parent’s house as the base of operations. Jay admits to around twelve Mustangs parked inside the barn at once, and we can’t help but chuckle at the “ponies in the stable” analogy this image creates.
After awhile, Jay and Creed connected with a few people who could set them up with new parts, which were then added to their inventory of used parts. This project had, up to that point, been a part-time endeavor for the pair. However, in 1989, at the age of 22, Jay left his full-time job with computer operations at Rite-Aid to “make a run at” the Mustang parts business. It wasn’t the easiest of transitions for the pair, as Jay admits that he had to basically sell everything he had for it to survive. Furthermore, there was little support from friends and family at the time, including Jay’s father, who felt that their business would never amount to anything. Within a year, though, after watching how determined and hard-working Jay had been, his father actually became one of Creed and Jay’s first employees and biggest supporters.
CJ Pony Parts has now grown to be one of the top Mustang parts and accessories retailers in the world. A far cry from the barn in which it began, CJ’s now operates out of a 36,000 square foot warehouse, containing thousands of Mustang parts for sale to fit any year Mustang. Even with all of this growth and expansion, CJ Pony Parts is still very much a family oriented business, with mothers, fathers, brothers, wives, and now even children working here. Even apart from that, Jay says “I feel that everyone working here is part of my extended family.”
So what’s a normal day like in the shoes of Jay at CJ’s? Sort of scoffing at the idea of a “normal” day, Jay admits that perhaps his favorite thing to immerse himself in here is operations. When he isn’t running around between offices, Jay can be found in the warehouse, where he frequents up to twenty times a day. He also enjoys interacting with CJ's employees, usually sporting a smile and sharing a laugh or two. In fact, Jay has a lot of admiration for his employees, whom he says are “almost always upbeat, with positive attitudes and smiling faces!”
Over the years, Jay has owned several Mustangs, with his favorite still being the famous ’68 coupe that served as the spark to this entire business. Other than ones he’s owned, Jay says his favorite Mustangs would most likely be the early Shelby’s and the Boss 302’s. Some events Jay is looking forward to include the 50th Anniversary of the Mustang show next year in Las Vegas, and, though this year's event was only last month, CJ’s CAD in 2014. Jay’s enthusiasm for Customer Appreciation Day seems to grow each year, as he gets to meet many of CJ’s loyal customers and give back to them and the community, who have made this business such a success.
Running a business can be taxing on anyone, but Jay still leads quite a busy life outside of CJ’s! He enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife, Roni, whom he's been married to for 18 years. He also has two children, Sydney and Zachary, and a granddaughter, Clara. In his free time, Jay is an avid golfer and likes to repair and work on houses.