Neighboring Yards Combine Marketing Efforts
Left To Right: Dan Marks, Matthew Marks, Mike Serwacki Sr., Marty Marks & Mike Serwacki Jr.
What does it take to turn long-time competitors into business partners? For Marty Marks and Mike Serwacki Sr., it was a chance encounter at an airport.
Marks co-owns Marks Auto Parts in Buffalo, N.Y. with his father, Frank Marks. The business spans four generations of the Marks family; Marks’ grandfather, Edward Marks, founded the company in 1960.
In 1972, Serwacki’s father, Matthew Serwacki, purchased 2060 Auto Parts, Inc., an auto recycling facility just down the road.
Both Marks Auto Parts and 2060 Auto Parts are full-service yards specializing in late-model auto parts. Marks and Serwacki grew up knowing each other and became good friends, even though their families’ companies were competitors.
“It was a friendly competition, but we’d go to auto auctions and go head to toe against each other,” Marks laughed.
A trip to one of these auctions eventually changed the business strategy for both companies. Marks and Serwacki ended up at the same auction in Allentown, Pa. While waiting out an airport layover on the way home, they struck up a conversation about starting a third business - together.
The result was M & M U-Pull-It, a 15-acre yard that opened in 2000. It was the first self-service yard in Buffalo, N.Y., and it received Buffalo’s Business of the Year Award in 2011. The company serves as the final stop for vehicles from the other two facilities.
“We shuffle all our cars from the other yards to there until they are picked right through,” Serwacki said.
Two years after M & M U-Pull-It opened, Marks and Serwacki opened another company together, the three-acre specialty yard, Minivans & SUVs of WNY.
“That one doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles,” Serwacki said. “It’s a specialty yard, so you can steer customers to one spot. The name says it all.”
It is now 14 years later and the partnership is still going strong.
All four businesses are neighbors on William Street in Buffalo. Marks and Serwacki have combined several of their business processes, such as scrapping and delivery, which is offered to customers throughout a 200-mile radius. The most noticeable aspect of their partnership, however, is their advertising strategy. Marks and Serwacki have combined their marketing efforts, always advertising all four businesses at once as “Auto Recyclers of William Street.” The companies never advertise separately.
“As long as we get customers onto the street, we don’t care where they end up, as long as it is one of our yards,” Marks said.
Marks and Serwacki meet about once a week to discuss their marketing strategy. They get marketing ideas from trade magazines and by watching what other companies do.
“These don’t necessarily need to be companies in our industry,” Marks explained. “We just see what seems to be working for somebody else.”
Their efforts include ads in phone books and trade publications as well as radio spots. Billboards are in the works.
Marks and Serwacki also found an innovative way to promote their business while promoting safety through a “don’t-text-and-drive” campaign.
“We displayed a crashed car at auto shows, showing what could happen if someone was texting while driving,” Marks said. “People took pledges saying they wouldn’t text and drive, and then they got to sign the car. That was a big hit with them, getting to sign the car.”
Soon, State Farm Insurance and Nationwide Insurance companies as well as the New York state troopers jumped on board with the campaign. The car has toured area schools and college campuses, appeared at state fairs, and received coverage from local news stations.
“It definitely got our names out there,” Marks said. “This car was probably on TV 20 times.”
What’s next for Auto Recyclers of William Street? Marks and Serwacki say they’re hoping to gain even more local exposure by adding a yearlong billboard campaign to their marketing efforts. While they’re “always in talks” to start a fifth business, nothing specific is in the works right now. Their current businesses are entering their third and fourth generations of family involvement with Serwacki’s son, Mike Serwacki Jr., and Marks’ sons, Daniel Marks and Matthew Marks, both coming on board.
For now, both say they’re enjoying their business partnership and the day-to-day business at all four companies.
“We all enjoy coming to work,” Serwacki said. “That’s hard to find nowadays.”