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History of the Crain Companies

The Crain Companies began as “Paul Crain Wholesale” in Searcy, Arkansas in the early 1950’s. “Mr. Paul”, Larry Crain Sr.’s father started out “peddling” tire repair items, health and beauty aids, fishing tackle and other general merchandise out of the trunk of his car. His customers were primarily small town “mom and pop” grocery stores and service stations. His business grew first into a van and later to a small “warehouse” (also his garage) and association with other peddlers, namely Hartsell Capps and Wendal Pettus. The seat of the pants operation grew up to the time Larry Crain, Sr. came on the scene in 1966. Larry had graduated from the University of Arkansas with an accounting degree, passed the C.P.A. exam and worked three years for the Peat Marwick Mitchell accounting firm and decided he wanted to go into business for himself.

In 1966, the company, then known as Crain Sales Company, built a new sprawling (10,000 square feet) headquarters on Highway 36 in Searcy, which in an expanded form (50,000 square feet) served as the company’s headquarters and main distribution facility until July 1992 when the company moved to the new 72,000 square feet office and warehouse in North Little Rock. In 1977, Larry Sr. and Danny Lesley purchased Kargo, Inc. of Memphis from U-Haul Company. Kargo, Inc. of Memphis expanded, and was merged into The Crain Companies in a new 30,000 square foot facility on Mendenhall Road in Memphis.

Beginning in the early 1980’s, the company saw an industry trend and customer need for free-standing auto stores and opened its first KarPro in Searcy (store #2). During the 1980’s and up until 2000 the company expanded by acquisition and new locations to more than sixteen locations. In September 2000 a majority of the automotive parts distribution facility was merged into the O’Reilly Auto Parts operation.

3rd generation Crain’s joined the family business after graduation from the University of Arkansas, first Larry Crain, Jr. in 1985 and then Chris Crain in 1994.

In 1990 The Crain Companies purchased a Ford Dealership in Benton, Arkansas and renamed it Freeway Ford Lincoln Mercury. In 1992 a sister dealership in Memphis was purchased and operated as Midway Ford. In 1999 Crain acquired the Landers North Facility from United Auto Group and was awarded the Kia franchise. Later that year, Crain acquired Service Chevrolet Oldsmobile from Cliff Peck and Crain sold Midway Ford in Memphis to United Auto Group to focus on growing the Central Arkansas market. Crain began operating all dealerships under the Crain Automotive Team umbrella as Crain dealerships. Throughout the next decade Crain further expanded the dealership operations to include 8 dealership locations and an RV store. Many stores have been recently relocated or renovated to meet the changing needs of its valued customers. As of January 2015 Crain operates two Crain Ford dealerships in Little Rock and Jacksonville, two Crain Hyundai stores in Little Rock and North Little Rock, two Crain Hyundai stores in Bentonville and Fayetteville, two Crain Kia stores in North Little Rock and Conway, Crain Chevrolet in Little Rock, Crain Buick GMC in Conway and Springdale, Crain Mazda in Little Rock, and Crain RV in Little Rock.

In 2002 Crain had the opportunity to purchase Caldwell Broadcasting of Searcy and renamed the company Crain Media, operating three FM and three AM radio stations. Crain Media added a fourth FM station later in 2002. In 2006 Crain Media purchased three FM stations from Archway broadcasting. Currently Crain Media operates 6 FM radio stations throughout Central Arkansas.

Crain Management Group, LLC is led by Larry Crain, Sr. & Chris Crain.

The company is pleased to have many other long-term and loyal associates and the management means it when they say “America’s Best Associates – The Crain Team’s Got ‘em!”