J.C. Cahill Is Back On The East Coast With A New Business Partner
John “J.C.” Cahill has finally fulfilled his lifelong dream to own his own auto recycling facility and he’s got a veteran partner to boot.
Photo: Christian Collard
It is a partnership that was 25 years in the making. Mark Brown was an established auto recycler who enjoyed living and working in rural Vermont. John “J.C.” Cahill was a teenager working for his father’s auto recycling yard. Add two decades of experience to Cahill’s resume, plus plenty of time in big cities working for corporate operations, and the time was finally right. The partners officially joined forces in 2011, which allowed Cahill to fulfill his dream to own his own shop, and Brown to realize his desire to expand next to a major metropolitan market.
At first, it seemed predestined that Cahill would join his father’s auto recycling operation. But his father was an old school recycler, and not so willing to embrace innovation. They only worked together a couple of years. With a degree in economics and religion from St. Lawrence University and an Masters of Business Administration from the University of Vermont, Cahill decided to embark on new territory. He left his father’s business and joined the ranks of Jerry Brown’s Auto Parts Center, Ltd., Queensbury, N.Y.
“Steven Brown and Larry Brown taught me the nuts and bolts of the sales business,” said Cahill They would be the first of several mentors that he credits with shaping his career. Cahill went on from there to work at LKQ Corporation in Portland, Ore.
By 2000, he had worked his way up to become one of the top salespeople on the west coast. Ford Greenleaf took notice and recruited Cahill to become a site manager in Seattle. “That was my first turnaround experience,” he remembered. “I came in and grew the business 300 percent in a year.”
Cahill found his niche in turnarounds. He went on to turnaround sites in Nevada for LKQ and in Tampa, Fla. for GreenLeaf Auto Recyclers. In between, he was national sales manager for GreenLeaf out of Dallas. He ultimately became part of a special projects team to build a hybrid model full-service / self-service recycling operation in Phoenix.
At this point, Cahill took stock of his career. He was ready to stop traveling so much.
“I looked around and realized that I had done so many things in the industry,” said Cahill “But the one thing I hadn’t done was to work for a large independent or start one on my own.”
Cahill went to work for Rick Perlenfein and Brian Perlenfein at B & R Auto Wrecking in the Pacific Northwest.
“They are phenomenal people, and pillars of the industry,” expressed Cahill. He worked as regional manager and successfully grew the business, an effort in part fueled by a friendly rivalry with the other regional manager Jeff Helget. “We pushed each other,” noted Cahill, “and saw B & R change pretty significantly as a result.”
But when Cahill approached Brian and Rick about buying into the company, they declined, wanting to keep it in the family. Cahill left on the best of terms, to pursue the next stage in his career. He reached out to Brown.
“We had stayed in touch all these years,” Brown explained. “I would hear from J.C. once a month. He would call up and run ideas by me, asking my opinion about a different way of inventorying vehicles or maybe processing them. I always enjoyed his enthusiasm. Living in rural Vermont, I didn’t get to have that kind of conversation very often.”
Another of Cahill’s mentors, Bill Stevens, was instrumental in putting the two together. Stevens was doing work for Brown and he had been a colleague of Cahill’s, recruiting him for the national sales manager position earlier in his career.
“I of course knew Mark but Bill recommended him so highly,” said Cahill, “that I knew he would be the right business partner.”
Brown also heard the idea from Stevens and was approached by Cahill.
“That was about the same time I was considering how to reach the Boston market,” explained Brown. “I love it in rural Vermont, but there are only about a half million people in the state. We deliver a long way, but it still doesn’t bring us to a major population center. I was always interested in buying a yard that would be accessible to that market.”
Brown had a yard in mind in Winchendon, Mass., known as Toy Town Auto. He arranged to meet Cahill at a URG conference to discuss the venture.
“It had been so long since we had seen each that we walked right by at first,” said Cahill “Then we sat down with our yellow notepads. We wrote down our goals for the business, our ethics and our vision. When we compared the two, it was very similar. We knew that this could work.”
They purchased the Winchendon facility, and as Cahill declared, they “took it from an 1980s junkyard to a 21st century auto recycling facility.”
“Our goal is to run one of the best recycling yards in the country,” stressed Cahill “That means not always the most profi table but the best - best in class, best in quality and parts on time as described. We have a ‘no surprise’ culture, and make sure customers are aware of their transaction and the parts they’re getting. There is 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed, a full refund no matter what the reason. Th at eliminates customers’ hesitations of buying a recycled part. The sale becomes less of a sale and more of a transaction.”
Cahill said he feels very fortunate. “I took the best of what I’ve learned in my career, and now am able to apply it to my business. Mark and Joan Brown are consummate professionals, first-class individuals from the way they treat their employees to the way they run their business. They are two of the best people I have ever had the privilege to meet.”
Cahill runs the Massachusetts location while Brown handles the Vermont facility. They share bookkeeping.
“It’s been a really good partnership,” said Brown. “We’re very diff erent. He’s constantly pushing out in new directions while I’m focused on my core competencies. Cahill expands my willingness to look at new ideas and I pull him back, keep him between the lines.”
Added Brown, “J.C. is more enthusiastic about this industry than anybody I’ve ever met,” said Brown. “He’s always had that drive to improve processes and grow the business. I saw that in him early on. And it hasn’t changed.”
The Brown’s Auto Salvage staff, from left to right: J.C. Cahill, Holly, Cahill, Josh Forseman, Mary Miller, Dustin Holden, Rob Fumire, Mark Shepard and Allen Champne.