How An Extra-Large Yard Thrives
Portrait Pretty Photography
Nuwer Auto Parts of Holland, N.Y. has 40 acres of land, an astounding 7,500 vehicles in all makes and models, and a reputation as the area’s leading source of hard-to-find parts.
Is there anything Nuwer doesn’t have?
“Yeah,” laughed owner Don Nuwer. “Time.”
Nuwer, who said he usually works 12-hour days six days a week, has been busy building his business since 1972. When Nuwer was just 18 years old, he used his pickup truck to tow vehicles to his parents’ home in East Aurora, N.Y.
“I was scrapping cars in their back yard,” he said.
And while his parents were fine with their son running a backyard salvage yard, the town of East Aurora was not.
“The town sure didn’t like it,” Nuwer said. “They threw me out.”
Nuwer then took his business on the road, purchasing junk vehicles from local farmers. Soon he was able to rent a licensed yard on three acres, but he knew he needed something bigger.
“I outgrew it fast,” he said.
In 1976, Nuwer purchased his current location in Holland, N.Y., which sat on just 11 acres at the time. It was a 40-year-old salvage yard, but it had been abandoned for years.
“There were rims, tire, and old car seats all piled up, rubbish all over,” Nuwer remembered. “It took a couple years to get it cleaned up and put up a building.”
He also started “saving and saving” cars. In 1979, the company expanded onto another 11 acres. By the mid-1980s, there were 2,000 cars on the property.
But that wasn’t enough for Nuwer.
“By 1993, we were getting crowded,” he said.
When 150 acres surrounding the property went up for sale, Nuwer seized the opportunity. In 2000, he added another 10 acres to the business, and added the final eight the following year, for a total of 40 acres.
Does he plan to expand further?
“No,” he laughs. “I’m done.”
Space For Storage
While owning such a large property can have some disadvantages - eight and a half miles of driveway to maintain, for example - the benefits are far greater. Nuwer likes having room to store everything that comes his way. In addition to cars and trucks, the company also buys boats, tractors and other farm machinery. Nuwer also has a scrap-processing facility on site.
“We handle it all, foreign, domestic, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We buy them all. What’s nice about [having so much room] is if something weird came in, I can store that car. A guy that’s crowded, they have to get rid of that car.”
And as the decades have gone by, there are even more makes and models for Nuwer to store.
“In 1976 when I came here, there were no Saturns, no Kias,” he explained. “The volume and spread of the makes and models of all these vehicles is getting so huge. It’s just amazing, the vehicles coming in now. I couldn’t run a good salvage yard on five acres of land.”
He admitted that on rare occasions a customer will need a part that Nuwer doesn’t have. In that case, he or his staff will hunt it down.
“Well, you can never have everything,” he said. “It’s funny to listen to people if you have to tell them you don’t have something. They say, ‘But you have everything!’ But we will find it for you. We don’t care. A lot of times, they’re in distress. They need it.”
Clean And Organized
Organization is the key to running such a large yard, Nuwer said. Every car has a number that can be easily located on a map of the yard. An employee can get to a specific car within minutes.
“It’s important to get to that site as quick as you can,” Nuwer said. “An employee could start tomorrow and be able to find a car.”
“We are tight on space,” he added. “I personally put every car away here myself after it’s inventoried. We double-stack our cars.”
The commitment to neatness and organization carries over into the company’s 15,000 square feet of indoor spaces as well. The offices feature granite floors, murals, mahogany desks and chandeliers.
“In today’s environment, neatness is the big thing,” Nuwer said. “In the old days, when they called them junk yards, you had just men coming. Now they send their wives, their daughters. You’ve got to make it warm for the people. You’ve got to make the environment nice for the people.”
Loyal employees also help the company succeed. Nuwer Auto Parts has 14 employees, and some of them have been there for decades. Shawn Cummings is head of sales and has been with the company for 15 years. Counterperson Frank Muzzy has been there 33 years.
“He sets up and runs the equipment, pulls all the motors, all the transmissions, starts all the cars,” Nuwer said. “He’s our main foreman. He’s a hands-on guy, and a very, very good employee. In 33 years, we’ve never had one argument.”
The company’s main secretary, Kathy Bastido, has been with the business for 22 years, and Nuwer has known her since high school.
“She’s hands-on with all of the computers and all of the updates for the computers,” he said.
Nuwer’s fiancée, Karen Weatherbee, also helps out at the company.
“She’s always there with a helping hand,” he said. “When something goes wrong, boom, she’s right there.”
What’s next? Nuwer said he hopes to maintain the yard’s size and to continue his busy days. At age 63, he has no plans to retire any time soon.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And I love what I do.”