Iowa History

Van Gorp Auto Recyclers Thrives Since 1962

Burgandi Carr and Junior Van Gorp make sure Van Gorp Auto Recyclers lives up to its reputation as an institution in Iowa auto recycling.


When Burgandi Carr drives home from work each night, she often makes a few stops along the way.

“I live in Albia (Iowa), which is about 30 miles from here, and there is a small town between us,” explained Carr, the general manager for Van Gorp Auto Recyclers in Oskaloosa, Iowa. “So I offer to deliver parts to customers from those towns on my way home, just to make it a little more convenient to them. We also offer to stay open a little later by appointment for those that can’t quite make it here by five during the weekdays.”

This kind of attention to customer service is one reason Van Gorp Auto Recyclers has been in business for more than 50 years. The company was founded in Pella, Iowa in 1962 by Marion Van Gorp (better known as “Junior”) and his brother, Dirk Van Gorp.

“(Junior) was rebuilding cars, and to make more money from doing so, he decided to sell the parts that were left over from the rebuilders, knowing that there was a market for that stuff,” Carr explained.

Legal troubles with the city of Pella in 1963 forced the company to move to Oskaloosa. In 1965, Dirk and Junior set up shop in the location that the business still occupies today. “One of Dirk and Junior’s friends had told them about this site being for sale,” Carr said. “It was actually the ideal place for a salvage yard.”

The business was one of the first salvage yards in Iowa and the Van Gorps helped to develop the auto salvage industry throughout the state. Dirk and Junior helped set up the state’s first “hoot and holler” line, a system to locate parts statewide.

Junior still owns the company but Dirk sold his share and opened his own business. “(Dirk) has since retired but stops by the shop a few times a week to say hi,” Carr added.

Carr joined the company in 2007 as a counter salesperson and became Van Gorp Auto Recyclers’ general manager in 2011. Since Carr took the manager position, she has overseen a reorganization process and the building of a new office space.

“The office before was kind of a ‘catch all,’ so we cleaned all the junk and miscellaneous parts out of it, rearranged some shelves and added a new office,” she said. “Now the floors are swept and the counters are cleaned every day, which makes it a lot more presentable.”

Carr’s new office was built about a year ago.

“It is a 14-by-12-foot area that overlooks the front lot, so it makes a great place for me to be able to look out and see people looking at the vehicles we have for sale,” she explained. “We took out the wall between my old office and the new, and they are joined together. We use the old office for car sales.”

Carr believes Van Gorp Auto Recyclers stands apart from other yards because of its longevity in the industry.

“We have been in business for so long that we have been able to see the highs and lows over the years,” she said. “For starters, the highs and lows of scrap prices, those are obviously always changing. There have been years that were so low that we just sat on our inventory and not crushed until the next year when prices were really good. Also, years ago you never had to deal with all these aftermarket companies as competition. Now it is a struggle trying to compete with their prices.”

Despite the ups and downs, many of Van Gorp Auto Recyclers’ employees have been with the company for 20 years or more.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have hired a few that haven’t worked out, but you will have that anywhere,” Carr said. “We are a very down-to-earth group of people who all know what, when and how things need to be done.”

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