COLD CASH

Indoor Self-Service Auto Recycler Heats Up Joliet



Sean Krause and Paul Krause of Speedway Auto Parts, Ltd., create a unique niche for recycled auto parts in Chicago, Ill.

PHOTO: PHOTOPROSINC.COM

Winter can get pretty cold in Joliet, Ill. with a windchill factor that often sends customers scurrying indoors. That is one reason the father and son team of Paul Krause and Sean Krause, owners of Speedway Auto Parts, Ltd. (SpeedwayAP.com), are constructing an indoor self-service facility.

"We had a 60,000-square-foot warehouse just across the street from our full-service yard," explained Sean. "It's one of three buildings that we already owned and it was sitting vacant on 12 acres of land."

They thought the building, which would keep out the wind and snow, would encourage customers to come out, even during the coldest months.

But before construction could begin, the Krauses had to get permission from the Joliet City Council. That was no easy feat.

Councilman Warren Dorris was quoted in The Herald News as saying, "You can paint it any way you want. It's a junkyard." He echoed the feeling of the council, whom Sean said "didn't really want to deal with the request.

"It's the whole perception of our industry," he added. "I see their point. There are a lot of operations allowed to run under the radar. That ruins it for all of us. So we knew it was important to educate the council members about our business. We're [ARA] Gold Seal certified. We take pride in operating a 'green' business."

The Krauses gave tours of Speedway Auto Parts to members of the council, who were suitably impressed. "They saw how my father and I conduct business," said Sean.

The council ultimately approved the project with certain restrictions. For example, the 150-year-old building must maintain its limestone exterior, which reflects its Joliet heritage.

"The building definitely needed some tender-loving care," explained Sean. "We had to rebuild some walls."

The Krauses also installed some clear panels in the roof so the sun could light it naturally. On cloudy days, energy-efficient lighting supplements as needed. The building is without heat, but since it is an enclosed space, it keeps out the worst of the winter weather.

"It is basically cold storage," said Sean. "But in the Chicago area, our winters are tough. An indoor facility offers a benefit to the consumer who still likes to work on his car."

Since most of the building's limestone walls are a foot thick, it should stay comfortable in the summer, too.

Sean estimates the building can house between 320 - 350 vehicles. There is room for another 600 outside. Everything is reclaimed indoors, from tires to fluids.

Customers get printouts of vehicle locations, based on the parts needed. They bring their tools and pay a $2 usage fee. Initially, five to seven employees will operate the facility. As business increases, the Krauses hope to employ 10 to 15 people.

The self-service facility is slated to open Dec. 1, 2010. It is tentatively called "You Wrench It."

"None of this would have happened if we hadn't been active in our state association ATRI [Auto & Truck Recyclers of Illinois] and ARA," said Sean.

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