Husband And Wife Team Run Five Locations
Andy and Sara Wilken work together to run the family business, Wilken & Sons, located across northeast Iowa.
Photo: Aimee Medellin, Images Photography
The co-owners of Wilken & Sons, Inc. work well together, whether they’re running one of the largest salvage operations in northeast Iowa or parenting their two little boys.
Husband-and-wife team Andy and Sara Wilken have been running Wilken & Sons side by side since 2010. The business is headquartered in Nashua, Iowa and has four other locations in the northeastern Iowa towns of Waukon, Kensett, Britt, and Iowa Falls.
“Andy’s been in it since he was a baby, and he took over as owner when he was 28,” Sara explained. “It’s all he’s known his whole life. I married into it, and I love it now.”
The history of Wilken & Sons goes back to Andy’s great-grandfather, who started a small auto recycling business in the 1940s. Andy’s grandfather, Vernon Wilken, moved the business to its current location in Nashua in 1955. Vernon’s sons, Jack Wilken and Jim Wilken, took over in the 1980s. Andy bought out his uncle, Jim, in 2006, and his father, Jack, in 2010.
When Andy first asked Sara to run the company with him, she was hesitant. She had worked in the banking industry and did not know anything about auto recycling.
“In 2010 when we took over, it became Andy saying, ‘I’d like you to come to the yard,’ and I was like, ‘Uh … OK,’” she said. “I’ve since discovered it is such an interesting profession. I’m learning something new every day.” And Sara and Andy have discovered that they make a good team.
“We get to see each other every day,” Sara said. “I love that. Before, there were nights that I never understood why he was getting home at 10 o’clock at night.” “She’s a lot more understanding now,” Andy laughed.
The Wilkens’ days are definitely full. Combined, the company’s five locations cover 66 acres, employ 44 workers and process 5,000 vehicles a year. The Nashua headquarters is located at the center, with the other four sites located about 70 miles away in every direction.
“We’ve got the northeast corner of Iowa pretty much surrounded,” Andy said. “There’s a manager at each location that I talk to multiple times a day. I try to get to each location at least once a week, but we have a good crew.”
“We’ve had real good luck with our employees,” he added. “We keep it simple. Show up on time, work while you’re here and we’ll have a good time.” Andy also serves on the Iowa Automotive Recyclers board of directors.
“We talk with other yards every single day,” he said. “We get along very well with most of the owners and operators in Iowa.”
What’s next? Additional locations are always a possibility, should the right opportunity arise, Andy said.
“Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know,” he laughed. “Even with our heads spinning as it is, we continue to be open to more locations.”
And will the company continue for yet another generation? The Wilkens’ sons, Drew and Kaden, are only eight and nine years old, but Sara says they’ve already expressed interest.
“It’s not something we are going to push on them,” she shared, “but they have mentioned it a couple of times, definitely.”