Extreme Makeover: Nordstrom’s “Next Generation”
There’s excitement in the air these days at Nordstrom’s Automotive, Inc. in Garretson, S.D. The nearly 50-year-old business recently unveiled a multimillion dollar facelift five years in the making and the results are - in a word - life-changing.
Built on the family’s dairy farm, Nordstrom’s Automotive had gone on for years the way many auto recyclers had - by patching up things here and there and adding buildings when needed. But by the early 2000s, it was clear that the infrastructure was starting to fail.
“We were running water lines from our old dairy cattle days that often broke down,” said Shannon Nordstrom, Vice President and General Manager. “We just wore everything out. The business had grown to a point where it wasn’t built for what we were doing.”
Then, in July 2012, there was a fire in the dismantling bay. Shannon credits the business’ CAR certification and Gold Seal status as pivotal to helping the team contain the blaze, which could have devastated the business. They repaired the building, but when it came time to do the next round of remodeling, Shannon thought carefully.
“I knew that we wouldn’t make it the next 20 years unless we changed significantly,” he said. “I also knew that in another 10 years, I may not have the drive to take on a big project like this.”
Going Beyond Superficial Changes
Shannon approached his parents, Art and Marie, founders of the business. Together, they agreed to make a bold move for the next generation. “That’s why we call it our next-generation facility,” said Shannon. “Such a big part of this success rests with my mom and dad who gave me free reign to make this change. It’s so important to be able to empower the second generation to act while you’re still involved in the business.”
Importantly, Shannon and his wife Tamie would assume full financial responsibility. “I didn’t want my parents to worry about this financially,” said Shannon. “I took the risk. I pushed all my chips to the center of the table and bet on auto recycling.”
The planning started in 2013 with Shannon’s uncle, a homebuilder and ag shop builder, as contractor. “All of a sudden, we had this clean slate,” said Shannon. “We started taking about all the notes we’ve taken over the years on all of the yard tours. We asked, ‘What’s the best we could do if we started completely over?’”
Shannon made sure to get employee input, which prompted some more changes. “As a result, we ended up with a perfected footprint for our company,” he said. “We dismantle late-model cars. We have a u-pull-it yard. We still sell repairable vehicles, and also sell alternative aftermarket parts. We built the facility to handle all of this.”
One of the things that Shannon and his team debated was how to handle the fuel removal. With the 2012 fire still fresh in everyone’s mind, and the fact that Shannon serves as chair for the CAR program, it was important to set it up safely - whether inside or outside the building. Shannon was leaning toward inside, until he got a call from Chris Carter, a friend and co-host of the Under the Hood show.
“Chris told me to log onto Facebook, and within seconds I was watching a friend’s business burn to the ground on Facebook Live. It turned out to be a fuel-related fire, and that was the deciding factor. We moved the fuel outside to a separate building.”
They broke ground July 2016 and finished the project in July 2018. “We truly operated with the engine running as we did all of this,” said Shannon. “We never stopped serving our customers.”
More Efficient, More Environmentally-Friendly
With the “clean slate” planning, the whole operation is designed for efficiency and environmental protection. There is an oil and antifreeze separator, with gravity taking the fluids through secondary containment underground lines. They burn all the oil; oil boilers create steam. Recycled fuel is used in their own fleet. Refrigerant is reclaimed and reused. “All of our fluid evacuation facilities are shared between the companies for efficiency,” noted Shannon.
In the process of the renovation, the business added 20,000 square-feet of warehousing, new asphalt parking lots and a new road leading to the facility. There was a total of 60,000 square-feet of construction. The new building is fueled by geothermal for air conditioning and heat. There is a 120-ton geothermal field on the hillside with 20 miles of geothermal tubing.
At the core of operations is a new spoke-and-wheel configuration. They put the shipping and receiving “fulfillment” hub at the center. This was the former dismantling bay, which was completely gutted and refitted for the purpose. “All of our quality control, customer fulfillment and quality assurance is now right in the center of what we do,” said Shannon. “This also allows us to share resources. It’s more efficient to transport parts on same trips. My goal is increase output with a similar number of people.”
There’s also now a beautiful employee break room, locker rooms, and customer restrooms. The entire lobby pays homage to Nordstrom’s rural beginnings. The Nordstrom Special, a favorite tractor once used to advertise the business, is enshrined there. A miniature barn playhouse mimics the one used by customers from Shannon’s own childhood at the old facility.
“There’s a lot of pride behind what we’ve done,” said Shannon. “The transformation is absolutely amazing, and it was done with confidence in the industry and in our team. We wanted to solidify our position as a professional auto recycler that’s here to stay. I want to thank all of our industry friends, partners, mentors, who helped to inspire us.”