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BIR 2024

Chuck’s Auto Parts Solutions: A Family Business with a Long History of Success

We learn about the remarkable legacy of Chuck’s Auto Parts Solutions, based in Pennsylvania, USA. Its president, Doug Reinert and Vice President, JR Reinert, tell us about the company’s humble beginnings, pivotal growth moments, and exciting vision for the future.

 

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Three generations of Chuck’s Auto Parts and the team – front L-R – Matt, Mom, Marianne, JR and Doug (holding the Certified Recycler of the Year trophy) and Dakota’.
Over 50 years in automotive recycling

Chuck’s Auto Salvage was established in April of 1972 when our folks purchased a 1.5-acre facility as an empty lot at 6867 Boyertown Pike, Douglassville, Pennsylvania, USA. The facility was formerly Force’s Garage. The facility was officially opened in June of 1972. 

It evolved from our Dad’s Repair Service, Chuck’s Service Center, which Chuck (Dad) started years earlier. They moved the repair business and our family to this location. They added 24-hour towing and slowly trended into the full-service recycling business it has now become. Our mother, Lois, handled the accounting, titling and HR. 

Dad soon became a member of our state association, PARTS, and soon after, the  Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA). They attended their first ARA convention in 1976, which opened their eyes to what was happening across the country and the great opportunities for our small family business. There was the ability to openly share information with progressive recyclers, and, of course, they had a large trade show.

A crane was purchased in 1975 to crush and load cars to a scrap facility. Cars would get crushed by dropping a concrete block on them and then loaded on a single-bed truck stacked three high. As kids, we would get crane rides by looping the chains and climbing on like a tire swing; Dad would spin the crane around in circles. Dad, JR and I loved it; it was the best kid’s ride in town, but Mom did not find it nearly as funny!

Necessitated by the small acreage and seeing how the small West Coast facilities were making the most of their small lots, car racks were incorporated into the operation in 1979. We could now put six cars on a two-car footprint and increase inventory by two-thirds. 

A small crusher called a ‘Nut-Cracker’ was purchased but could only crush small portions at a time and had to winch it through. Eventually, we would outsource the crushing with a local mobile crushing service.

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Lois (Mom) promoting recycled parts at a country fair

Over the next few years, we purchased the adjoining small undeveloped lots, giving us six acres to operate on, which allowed us more space to purchase more car racks.

The computer system, ‘Yard 98 AutoInfo’(which later became ‘Pinnacle’, was installed in 1989 –, and in the same year, we achieved the URG 8000 Certification.

In 2000, a small group of progressive independent recyclers in PA were investigating the opportunity to start a marketing and parts trading group to help the independent recyclers better compete with the consolidators in our market. During that process, we became aware of another group of recyclers in New England doing the same investigation. The two visions being considered were QRP (Quality Recycler Parts) and the successful Team PRP group in Texas led by Mike Kunkle. Through that process, our company and eight other recyclers committed to forming Premium Recycled Parts North East (PRP-NE).

In the beginning, much of our energy at PRP-NE was focused on educating customers on PRP-NE quality standards and customer service. Our team would provide them with a way to improve their cycle time. 

At that time, we traded parts through three different hubs, allowing us access to each other’s inventory within 72 hours. As the group expanded to fourteen PRP-NE members, we began a centralized hub, instantly allowing us to exchange parts nightly. That commitment to next-day service allowed our group to accept orders from our customers up to 3:00 pm, and the following morning, we would provide them with quality parts delivered on time, as described. 

Next, availability and commitment to customer service dramatically increased our sales and set us apart from our competition. 23 years later, our PRP-NE group is 19 locations strong in seven states, and PRP-NE owns our hub in Albany, NY. 

The PRP National trailer system also connects to our hub nightly, providing us access to an additional 190 recyclers nationwide. However, those parts can take up to a week to process, depending on the distance they must travel.

A few years after JR came back into the company (his son-in-law, Matt, had also joined the company and was making the commute daily) and also commuting an hour and a quarter from his residence in York, PA, we began a search for a second opportunity in York PA. At that time, we were considering a self-service model, but after some time, we decided to stick with what we knew and decided to open another full-service operation. The location bought as an empty lot with a nice side building, was opened in January 2016. It was convenient for JR and his family and gave us easy access to the Baltimore, Maryland, market. Following the purchase, JR’s son, Dakota, left his career and joined our company to learn and eventually lead the purchasing department.  

Growing up attending ARA conventions, I would spend time in the Education Foundation room. There, I would browse through notebooks full of recyclers submitting photos of the improvements they had made to their facilities. ARA evolved from the Beautification Awards to the Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) program. The CAR standards and program guides are tools that all automotive recyclers can use as guidance to compliance and excellence at their facilities while improving and growing their business. We embraced the CAR certification process, where CAR resources are available to help professional auto recyclers mitigate compliance issues and maintain safe facilities. Find resources on the certification website https://aracertification.com/. 

ARA Past President Randy Reitman dedicated his term to promoting the CAR program and successfully encouraged more members to become certified. He also created the magnificent CAR Trophy that travels the country to each year’s winner. Our family and team were surprised and extremely honored to be chosen as the Certified Recycler of the Year in 2021.

Background of Doug and JR: The Path to Business Ownership and Involvement

JR – “I was incorporated into the business from the beginning. I was 12 years old, doing small jobs initially until I was adept at removing parts for sale and or dismantling vehicles. Back then, it was doing whatever needed to be done, from part pulling to sweeping the floor or performing a service on a customer’s car while we still did repairs. After graduating from High school, I was moved into the sales office for a time. I can’t say I ever “ran” the business before I left in the fall of 1983. I did kinda’ manage the yard for a year or so…. maybe?”

“When I left the business in 1983, my future wife, Tonia, and I purchased a home in Dover, PA. I worked in different companies to earn money to survive. I raced until a Road Boring Company hired me to work in their shop. Working on equipment and fabricating drill heads was my specialty. After a year, I was managing all shop operations. A year later, I was promoted to General Manager of the company. 

Through the years, Doug and Dad intermittently attempted to persuade me back into the family business with no success. Finally, at the end of 2007, I approached Doug to ask if there was room for me and if he could meet what I needed to sustain my lifestyle. He said yes, and we started planning for the transition. Dad had since retired, so Doug and I would manage the team. After retiring from teaching, Tonia came on board at the York yard as the Safety Coordinator for this location.”

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L-R – JR, Doug and Chuck wearing the ADRA belt buckle, and Ken Vonhoff and his wife

Doug – “I also worked in the business the same as many kids growing up in our industry, from doing whatever odd job was needed to driving tow trucks as a teenager. Like many others in the industry, our home was on the same lot and surrounded by the operation. So you couldn’t walk out of any door without knowing what the family business was.

JR and I both left home in 1983, and I went on to college to pursue computer engineering. Eventually, I took some business courses and rejoined the company in 1989. Once back in the business, I became involved in sales, marketing, and purchasing. It was great to be back in such an exciting industry with so much opportunity. My exposure to ARA and PARTS associations at a young age helped me understand the importance of our associations and networking. Those friendships and exposure to what happens outside our small town helped mold us into what we are today. I fell in love and married my wife Marianne, who also joined the company doing HR and payroll. We are blessed with three amazing children who are currently pursuing college degrees, and the door is open if they choose to return to join the family business.

We grew up as a racing family; Dad worked long hours, and then we would work on a sprint car in the evenings that JR drove and raced during the weekends.”

Time Away and Its Impact: Enhancing Chuck’s Auto Salvage Through Diversified Experiences

 

JR – “I was able to complement the company with my organizational and system development skills. I learned the value of functional systems from my previous GM experiences, which were a major asset in getting Chuck’s organized and trending into a more fluid operating entity. Doug stayed focused on the business functions, and I focused on the production portion of the Company. Doug was going through the ARA chairs and was on track to take the presidency role in 2011. I had to learn the business side ASAP, so Doug started taking me to the consultant Bi-annual meetings. This was the catalyst to understanding the business plan for developing a progressive yard.”

Doug – “Dad has always had a commitment to a strong work ethic, customer service, trust with a handshake, and making time for family. I attended a co-op engineering school, which created an opportunity for me to work at various companies during my schooling. During one of my internships at a large company, as co-workers would check in at the main gate, many were immediately turned away and notified they were terminated and needed to call HR. That experience definitely made a huge impression on me, not only about how impersonal big business can be but also about understanding just being a number. I truly enjoy being part of a family business, and we consider our extended family to include all 108 Team members in our Chucks family.”

Milestones Shaping Chuck’s Auto Salvage’s Expansion: Key Turning Points

Dad attended his first ARA convention in 1976. It was a big decision to leave his small business to attend a convention halfway across the country. I believe more of our industry needs to step away from their operations to truly work ON their business and not IN their business. I know it’s a familiar statement, but it is so very true.

JR – We were able to maintain a solid Company through 2011, even with Doug’s hectic schedule as President. In the fall of 2012, we hit the gas, and the business really started to blossom, focusing on steady growth in purchasing, inventorying, and dismantling; maintaining these three functions of the company is paramount to our success. Ever-evolving systems to handle the growth enhanced our profits and propelled us into the entity we have become.

Doug – “Being active in the PARTS and ARA, open-minded to challenging the norm, and seeking out influential consultants like Howard Nusbaum, Jim Counts, Bill Stevens, Mike Kunkle and Profit Team consulting. Their ability to educate us, challenge us, and the open sharing of information in those groups have pushed us farther than we had ever expected. 

Premium Recycled Parts – Northeast (PRP-NE) – In the late 90s, I became aware of two organizations names – QRP (Quality Recycled Parts from the midwest) and PRP (Premium Recycled Parts from Texas) that were created by independent full-service recyclers to compete with the consolidators. A group of us in the northeast considered both and, in 2000, started PRP-NE. We continued to evolve with a common passion focused on educating the customer on the value of quality parts delivered on time, as described. In the beginning, we had a three-day delay exchanging parts between the nine of us scattered across various states in the US. 

Although it took two to three days, it was still better access to high-quality ROE than most of our competition. The biggest change came when we were committed to meeting at a central location in Binghamton, NY and trading nightly with our group, now including 12 facilities in six states. With a nighty exchange location, we could now fill an order that was not available in our site’s inventory and order at three in the afternoon from our customer, transfer a purchase order to our PRP-NE partner, exchange it at the hub in NY and deliver that quality part the next day. It was a dramatic change and an advantage how our rural family business was able to service our customers in eastern PA. We provide daily delivery service to PA, MD and DE. 

EOS – Implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System. JR can speak more passionately about this. He read the book Traction, which lays out the EOS program and the benefits of company-wide Open and Honest communication, Core Values, Vision, and measurables.”

JR – “Regarding the EOS business plan, I’m a logistics guy to start with. So, reading Traction was a detailed extension of my beliefs. We were doing a lot of what is outlined in the book but not to the level of accountability, structured “Level 10” meetings, open and honest healthy conflict and communications the system requires to be totally effective. Everyone gets a number to measure themselves, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Vision Traction Organizer or V/TO is the tool to establish a 10-year guide for your company.

Utilizing your core values for hiring, there’s a system for counseling employees for improvement or moving them to another position or transitioning out of the company. Right Person, Right Seat, is the goal. There’s much more to the book and the EOS system. After the introduction to the management staff, we self-instructed for a year. We then hired a counselor to guide us, and what a difference he made. I suggest reading TRACTION and implementing the EOS for anyone looking to organize their company on another plateau.

During this process, Matt eventually became Director of Operations, and Dakota became Director of Inventory Management as we transitioned to the EOS system.”

Navigating the Dynamic Auto-Recycling Terrain: Addressing Key Challenges and Optimal Solutions

 

JR – “Consolidators are the biggest challenge. We lose the opportunity to sell parts (to independent recyclers) as they acquire more facilities. An obvious reason is that they buy from their facilities before they buy from a privately held company. 

Although EV units are being pushed by our government, I struggle to see what’s around the corner on this topic. The infrastructure to support this doesn’t seem to be progressing as fast as the manufacturers will be producing vehicles. The OEs are required to support their discontinued models for ten years; I believe Ford discontinues theirs at 12 years. Does the Recycler become the product source for the OEMs? Are our parts more cost-effective to buy, certify, and box than retooling to produce the parts needed to maintain inventory levels? 

The oil companies will fight to maintain their share of the fuel market. There’s a battle there. Cars will never stop crashing. Humans will control the majority of these for a long while. I believe their way off from AI technology ruling the roads. Certain society’s income levels won’t allow them to buy a new EV car or truck. We’ll have inventory to purchase for a LONG time.”

Doug – “As a Full-service operation, the relationship we have between recyclers and our customer are slowly deteriorating with more and more influence of ecommerce. Although it creates a larger opportunity for customers, it also creates a race to the bottom of prices, just as we do when shopping for our homes on Amazon and eBay. Although we must utilize social media and Google ad words to increase sales, I believe the commitment to personal customer service and building relationships will be the differentiator for the continued success of our full-service business model. 

I agree that the EVs will certainly shape our industry, but we adapt and succeed as entrepreneurs in this ever-changing line of vehicles that the OES have created since Henry Ford.”

For a virtual tour of Chuck’s Auto Parts, please see the video below

 

To learn more about Chuck’s Auto Parts Solutions, please visit chucksas.com 

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