BUILDING BUSINESS

Northlake Improvements Attract Customers



Marty Hollingshead, owner of Northlake Auto Recyclers, understands the importance of having a professional-looking auto recycling business and the impact it makes on the industry’s image.

AARON SALDANA PHOTOGRAPHY

Northlake Auto Recyclers, Inc. doesn’t see a lot of retail traffic in its location in Hammond, Ind. That’s a shame, because customers are missing out on all of the updates and improvements that owner Marty Hollingshead has made in recent years.

“We don’t have a big retail presence or walk-in customers, maybe 10 percent of our customer base is retail,” he said. “The majority of our business is wholesale. But it is still important for us to look professional for ourselves, our customers and for the community. We try to overcome the image of a junkyard. This is no different than any other profession, in that you want to take pride in what you’re doing. People who do visit say that it reminds them of a lawyer’s office.”

Hollingshead bought the place in 1984, just a year after he started working there. The timing was right; the previous owner wanted out. Buying the business seemed like a natural fit for Hollingshead, who had worked in the auto recycling industry since 1977. Having a place of his own allowed him to tailor it to his needs.

 

New Improvements

Most recently, he purchased a 29,000-square-foot building that’s seven-tenths of a mile from the main location. He completely remodeled it to become a warehouse for parts. It was a welcome addition to the business for inside storage. However, it did take a lot of work to get the building into working condition.

“The warehouse was in pretty sad shape when we got it,” Hollingshead admitted. “We had to completely redo the inside. It took us about 10 months. But now we have five stories with a basement and a freight elevator, and an office building attached to it. It’s a great location, and as the company grows, we can tap into it.”

The warehouse is the latest in a series of additions and improvements that Hollingshead has made to the business. Recently, he constructed a 4,000-square-foot mechanical shop, adding on another 3,500 square-feet of inside core storage. In the past, he has incorporated woodwork into his main office, added a five-bay dismantling building and completely revamped the top floor of one of the warehouses with insulation, glass block windows and energy-efficient lighting. His 18.5-acre site also features professional landscaping. It seems like there’s always a business improvement, whether aesthetic or functional, under way at Northlake Auto Recyclers.

 

Running Smoothly

Today, the business boasts 26 employees, and processes between 1,500 and 1,800 vehicles annually. It specializes in late-model foreign and domestic vehicles, what Hollingshead refers to as “mainstream.”

“Now I have about just about 100,000 square-feet of inside storage and building space,” he said. “Then we have our outside sheet metal racks, which are covered. A lot of guys make that mistake - they want more business but are not ready for it because they don’t have the inventory. We’re able to stock everything our customers need, so that we can get it out to them the minute they need it.”

Even the web site speaks to Northlake Auto Recyclers’ well-stocked buildings. The motto is “When we say we have it - we do!” Parts are carefully harvested, tested and UPC-coded for next-day delivery, in most cases. Because of its location just 700 feet from the Indiana state line, the business services northwest Indiana and the Chicago market, calling itself “the Premiere Recycler in Chicagoland.” Hollingshead believes that Northlake Auto Recyclers is the largest buyer of OEM surplus in the region.

 

Indiana Clean Yard

Northlake Auto Recyclers’ extensive stock and its professional image are not the only things that distinguish it from others; the facility also carries the distinction of being the first Indiana Clean Yard - Gold Level by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). “Achieving the highest certification level signifies that the auto salvage facility has gone beyond environmental regulations to show that they care about the community and are committed to protecting the environment,” noted the IDEM press release.

For Hollingshead, it just means that things are done right. “It goes back to taking pride in your work,” he explained. “Making sure that you have a clean yard that meets environmental standards is the right thing to do.”

Hollingshead keeps tabs on the key issues, like the environment, by staying active in the industry. He serves on the board of the Automotive Recyclers of Indiana, Inc. (ARI). “It’s important to participate,” he said. “There’s strength in numbers. As an organized group, we can have a voice in legislation that affects us.”

At work, he leads by example. Creating a professional environment sets the stage for a professional interaction with customers. He works closely with employees to deliver that experience, as well as quality parts. He’ll even jump in and do the job with his staff, because “we’re all working for the same thing.”

Chosen to speak at the 2014 Hollander Innovative Summit on quality control, Hollingshead acknowledged that “at Northlake, we pride ourselves on providing quality parts for our customers. But we also work really hard to make sure that we deliver excellent customer service. My people are the reason that we’re successful. I’d put them against anyone else in terms of the effort they put forth, and it shows with our customers. You know you’re doing a good job when a customer keeps coming back. We’ve built our reputation by just word of mouth.

“What we are able to do is dictated by circumstances,” added Hollingshead. “We’ve built a good business and we’ll continue to build upon what we’ve already done. We will do our part to protect jobs and grow the industry.”

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