Rhodes Auto S/S/S, Inc.
Rhodes Auto S/S/S, Inc., located in Streator, Ill., was an abandoned tile factory before it became the bustling auto recycling facility it is today. James Rhodes saw its potential. He worked for a repair business when the property became available in 1985. He jumped at the opportunity and opened Rhodes Auto S/S/S two years later.
"Jim started out with nothing," acknowledged current owner and son-in-law, Rich Aukland. "He did the hard part; building the business largely by word of mouth."
Today, Rhodes is a consultant. He formally handed over the reins of the business to his twin daughters, Wendy Auckland and Jamie Middleton, along with their husbands, Rich and Jeff Middleton, in January 2009.
"Jim is still very much involved," added Rich. "We frequently talk about the business."
Rhodes Auto S/S/S specializes in late-model vehicles from 2000 and newer, though it also has "some older stuff," according to Rich. Recycled auto parts carry a six-month warranty but extended coverage is available. Aftermarket parts also are available. As an added service, and to collect vehicles for the business, Rhodes Auto S/S/S offers 24-hour towing.
Trucks deliver within a 100-mile radius, which takes them into Chicago. Delivery routes are predetermined and regular customers know where the vehicles will be any given day of the week. The business also ships nationwide. It primarily sells to wholesale customers and has only a small number of walk-ins.
"We're very big on keeping our word," explained Rich. "That was something that Jim started. When we tell a customer something, whether it's a delivery date or the quality of a part, it's as good as gold. We don't want any surprises. And for those rare times when we do mess up, we jump through hoops to fix it. Customer service is huge for us."
The business attracts attention via its online presence. "We sell through Car-Part.com," he said. "We have an insurance company that grabs our inventory and attaches it to estimates. The business has become more Internet-focused in recent years. Eventually, we're going to be setting up something on eBay and selling parts through our web site."
Rhodes Auto S/S/S keeps abreast of the industry news - from web sites to new technologies - by being active in associations, from ARA to QRP and ATRI (Auto & Truck Recyclers of Illinois). Recently the owners realized an additional benefit to building relationships with other auto recyclers.
"A tornado hit our yard last June, and tore apart our teardown facility," said Rich. "We were down for a week. The response we got from other yards was amazing. They called, offering to help. We have a service where we pick up cars, and they offered to do it. I don't even consider them competitors; they're more like trading partners."
The company was quickly back in business but the owners decided not to rebuild. Instead, plans are to build at a location closer to the front of the property sometime in 2011.
"We're looking into three smaller buildings, each dedicated to a different function," explained Rich. "We'll have a warehouse, a teardown facility and then offices with a showroom and aftermarket parts."
As for the future, Rich already sees potential interest in his children, Abby and Logan, and his nephew and niece, Zander and Alexcia Middleton.
"My goals are to provide for my family and the families of our 20 employees so we can hand the business to the next generation."
Owners: Rich & Wendy Aukland, Jeff & Jamie Middleton
Location: Streator, Ill.
Years In Business: 24
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