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Discount Auto Parts was founded by Herman Fontaine, his son Denis, a lawyer and one-time judge, and other members of his family in 1971, when they opened an 800-square-foot store in Eloise, Florida. Growth was modest in the company's first years but more rapid after Denis Fontaine, described in one publication as "hard-charging and charismatic," succeeded his father as president and chief executive officer in 1978. Sales and income increased every year from 1977, and the company opened an average of 17 stores each year between fiscal years 1977 and 1982. By 1989 there were 100 Discount Auto Parts stores in Florida. During fiscal 1994 Discount Auto Parts became the largest Florida-based retailer in-state receipts, its net sales advancing to $207.6 million and its net income to $14.3 million.
Denis was a board member of the Sun Bank, president, director and trustee of the Lakeland Family YMCA, and past vice-president and director of the Lakeland Jaycees. He was an accomplished sailor and as a runner logged more than 7,000 miles and completing two marathons.
Denis Fontaine died of cancer in June 1994. The Denis L. Fontaine Foundation is a major sponsor for the Lake to Lake 10k.