When Scott Ambrose first worked for Davis Auto Salvage, located in Old Town, Fla., in the 1980s, he was an employee. Now, the business is called Dixie Salvage LLC and he is one of the owners.
"I started my career in the salvage industry, but I soon left to take a position in new parts sales at a local General Motors dealership," he said. "I stayed in new parts sales for close to 10 years before returning to used parts. Then I got a call from Jerry Davis when he was ready to retire. I went back to work for him for about a year before I bought the business."
Today, Dixie Salvage (DixieSalvage.net) specializes in late-model used parts, both foreign and domestic. The business also carries aftermarket parts - taillights, headlights, grilles and radiators. It caters to a customer mix made up of 60 percent walk-in and 40 percent wholesale.
"What differentiates us is that we give more personal service than the bigger yards," Ambrose proclaimed. "The salvage industry has really changed in the last 10 to 15 years. One of the biggest changes is the ability for our customers to search and find parts on the Internet. The Internet may show some cheaper prices, but it will never take the place of the local guy when it comes to customer service.
"If our customers run into a problem, we're right here," he emphasized. "We are always eager to help them work it out."
Because of his strong local customer base, Ambrose regularly advertises new vehicle arrivals in the local paper. The paper circulates to three counties, the same area Dixie Salvage targets.
The business operates on more than 30 acres and has six employees. The sales staff alone has more than 50 years of industry experience.
Dixie Salvage offers local delivery for all customers within 100 miles and ships throughout North America. It uses Southeastern Freight Lines for large items and UPS for smaller parts. Used parts come with a 90-day warranty and new parts carry six-month to one-year warranties. Mechanical shops receive extended warranties on motors and transmissions.
"The largest change in the business is probably the impact of aftermarket parts," Ambrose explained. "It's no longer viable to pull some parts off of a car because the body shops are more apt to go for the aftermarket part. The shops are also not doing the heavy collision repairs anymore because insurance companies have set guidelines as to what should be fixed."
Ambrose also admits to having to "sharpen his pencil" due to customers being able to shop around for parts online. "The Internet is a double-edged sword," he said. "People will call about parts they see on our web site. And of course, we use Car-Part.com and the United Auto Recyclers Network to find parts. Yet consumers searching on eBay are made aware of what else is out there."
Ambrose keeps his tabs on the industry by attending industry conventions. "I try to attend at least the Florida Auto Dismantlers & Recyclers Association (FADRA) convention every year. Some of that information you can't get anywhere else. It's priceless."
As for the future, Ambrose would like to continue to grow the business' inventory, and make new additions to the warehouse space. "I had a list of things to do since I took over the business," he explained. "I have to look at it and remind myself occasionally that things are getting done. We don't want to be the biggest; we just want to be the best.
Owners: Scott & Gailya Ambrose; Herman & Virginia Sanchez
Location: Old Town, Fla.
Years In Business: 33, Owned by Ambrose 4