Family Drives The Business
PHOTO: BUD SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY
With just six cars on opening day, and 35 acres of land, Stanley Kingsley had a lot of ground to cover. It would take a little while, but with hard work, perseverance and a family that stood behind him - and ultimately staffed the business - 135 Auto in Mauckport, Ind. would grow to be a family legacy. Today, it’s one of the largest auto recycling yards in Indiana and involves three generations.
“We have come a long way,” acknowledged Travis Kingsley, Stanley’s grandson. Travis has been working full-time in the business for the past eight years, and unofficially helping out all of his life. He shared the story of the business’ start back in 1973.
His grandfather had always loved cars, according to Travis. “In his younger days, he was known as a hot rod,” he said. So it was no surprise to anyone when he took that hobby a step further.
“My grandfather was working for Colgate at the time when he decided to start a salvage business,” said Travis. “He started bringing cars to this property and parting them out. It wasn’t just parts; it wasn’t just salvage. He also had a shop here and they would install motors and transmissions.”
Back then, there were no wreckers. Everything was pulled by a chain. It was an inauspicious start for the largest and most reputable auto salvage yard in Indiana. However, the business grew over the years, with family members stepping in as needed. Stanley’s son Tim joined the business full-time in the mid-1980s. At that time, 135 Auto had built up to a couple hundred cars on-site. Initially working with one building, the family constructed a transmission warehouse in 2004 and a motor warehouse in 2012. They no longer install motors and transmissions; today, the business is all about parts.
The first thing you’ll notice if you stop by 135 Auto is the yard filled with vehicles. Travis admitted that there are so many that he couldn’t tell you the number.
“We are just lucky to have the space,” he said. The business carries all makes and models and most years of vehicles and parts. Most vehicles are purchased at insurance auctions.
“Insurance companies will total a vehicle over the simplest things when it has been in a car accident,” noted Travis. “I think in this way the economy is pushing people to buy new cars. But there are a lot of mechanics out there. I have seen them come and go in the relatively short time that I’ve been here. They are trying to survive - and we’re here to help them.”
While 135 Auto ships all over, including to mechanics and other salvage yards, the majority of their customers are located within about 100 miles, in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.
“We’ve got a very big local following,” said Travis. “We get a lot of business from our local people around here, mainly walk-in customers. And since we’re so close to Louisville [Kentucky], we sell to salvage yards that have insurance customers. We have trucks that travel north and south every day, including to Louisville. On Saturdays, we’re open for four hours, and that’s when we deliver to Jasper which is about 70 miles away.”
The business advertises its parts online via Hollander and CarPart.com, and its website, www.135auto.com, where it also showcases its family roots and extensive property. They’re members of the Automotive Recyclers Association, and keep up with the latest business practices.
“We’re working every day to add new vehicles and new parts so that we have the part you need,” Travis said. “We don’t want an unhappy customer, so we work hard to deliver the right part at the right price.” The business offers 30-day warranties on small items and 100-day warranties on motors and transmissions.
There are eight to nine employees on any given day helping to pull, package and sell parts. “We treat our employees well,” noted Travis, “like members of the family. It goes beyond Christmas bonuses, which we also provide. If something would come up for an employee, we’ll be there for them, and help them the best we can. Some have been with us for 15 to 20 years.”
As for working in a family business, Travis acknowledged that it’s fun on many levels. “This is not your average job,” he explained. “Every day is different here, that’s for sure, and that’s what I enjoy about it.
Travis credits his own work ethic as one he learned from his grandfather, who is still involved to some extent at 135 Auto. “He’s worked hard all his life,” said Travis. “He actually started another yard that mainly does towing and that keeps him busy - but he checks in with us.”
With 33 years behind him in the business, Tim Kingsley - Travis’ father - is at the helm. “We’ve both learned many things from my grandfather,” said Travis. “He’s taught us how important it is to be independent, and to work hard for what you want. Without him doing what he did back in the day, we wouldn’t be here in this business. It has done well for our family. He had no idea it would be this successful.”
As it turns out, Stanley Kingsley gave a great gift to his family-a legacy which could extend to his great-grandchildren in the not too distant future. “I have a four-year-old son,” said Travis, “and my sister has a son around the same age. I hope the business is still going strong by the time that they’re ready to get into it.”