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Originally a division of Memphis-based wholesale grocer Malone & Hyde, the company was known as Auto Shack. After the sale of the grocery operation to the Fleming Companies of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the name of the company was changed to AutoZone to reflect the new focus and to settle a lawsuit brought by Tandy Corporation for infringing on Tandy's "Radio Shack" trademark.
On July 4, 1979, the first store opened in Forrest City, Arkansas under the name of Auto Shack. Doc Crain was the store's first manager. Sales that first day totaled $300.00.
In 1981, Express Parts or VDP is implemented to get the customers hard to find parts by special ordering them through wholesalers. Total stores was 73 in 7 states.
In 1984, the company became the first auto parts retailer to create a quality control program for its parts. Total stores was 194 in 13 states.
In 1985, Doc Crain coined the term WITTDTJR, which stands for "What it takes to do the job right." Total store count is 263 in 14 states.
By 1986, expansion had made the company grow into a large store chain across the South and the Midwest. That year, Darren Reltherford, manager of Auto Shack's Memphis, Tennessee store, received the first Extra Miler award, which has since been given to AutoZoners who show their dedication to customer satisfaction by "going the extra mile" for customer service. The Duralast line of alternators and starters is released. The Loan-A-Tool program begins allowing customers the ability to borrow specific tools for jobs. The 4th Distribution Center in Greenville, South Carolina opens. Total of stores is 339 in 15 states.
AutoZone store sign in Phoenix, Arizona
In 1987, Auto Shack officially changed its name to AutoZone. The first AutoZone store was in Enid, Oklahoma. That year also, the company introduced WITT-JR, an electronic catalog used to look up parts and keep warranty information. Total of stores is now 459 in 16 states.
In 1989, the company began using a computerized store management system (SMS). The Duralast battery line is released consisting of Sub-Zero, Desert and long life. Total of stores is 513 in 17 states.
In 1991, its stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker symbol "AZO."  It opened up at $27.50 a share. It was then valued at $1 billion. The 5th DC opens in Lafayette, Louisiana. The company also became the first auto parts retailer to register customer warranties in a computer database.
In 1994, AutoZone began using satellites to facilitate communication between stores and the corporate office. Sales hit $1.5 billion.
In 1995, AutoZone opened its 1,000th store in Louisville, Kentucky. Also, the Duralast trademark made its debut with the Duralast and Duralast Gold batteries. Total of stores is now 1,143 in 26 states.
1996 was the year when the Internet era arrived at the company, when AutoZone opened its company Web site. The new commercial program debuted in Germantown, Tennessee. ALLDATA, a software company based in Elk Grove, California that provides automotive diagnostic and repair information, was acquired.
Company founder Pitt Hyde retired as chairman and CEO in 1997. John Adams became the new chairman and CEO.
In 1998, AutoZone acquired Auto Palace, an auto parts chain in the northeastern United States with 112 stores, TruckPro L.P., a chain with 43 stores in 14 states, and the 560-store Chief Auto Parts Inc., a chain with a presence in 5 states. At the commencement of fiscal 1999, AutoZone made another acquisition by purchasing 100 Express stores from The Pep Boys—Manny, Moe & Jack. The company began a process of internationalization with their first store abroad, which opened in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. AutoZone closed the 1990s by debuting at the Fortune 500 list in 1999.