Mecca Auto Salvage Recovers From Devastating Fire
From Left To Right: Brad Frink, Brian Frink, Aaron Frink and David Frink.
Late one night last January, Brian Frink received an ominous phone call from his auto recycling facility’s alarm company.
Alarms had detected motion at Mecca Auto Salvage & Recycling, Inc. (www.meccasalvage.com), the company he manages in Rockville, Ind. He quickly called his father, Aaron Frink, who owns Mecca Auto Salvage & Recycling and lives close to the business. Aaron looked in the direction of the facility and saw flames.
Mecca’s warehouse was completely engulfed by fire. Bright orange flames leaped into the sky as smoke poured from the roof. The echoing booms of exploding drive shafts vibrated through the cold night air.
As Aaron rushed to the scene, his first thought was about his son David and his family, who live next door to the business.
“You could tell it was a devastating business fire, but my first concern was for my grandkids,” he said.
Luckily, their house was unharmed, and no one was injured in the fire.
“That was quite a relief,” Aaron said.
Firefighters battled the blaze throughout the night, but single-digit temperatures made the task more difficult.
By morning, the flames were gone, but so was Mecca Auto Salvage & Recycling’s warehouse, the main office building containing all of the company’s computers and phones, and 20,000 parts. The cause of the fire was never determined.
“It was pretty devastating,” Aaron said, “a pretty major event in our lives. We’re trying to move forward.”
That move forward began immediately. The business’ scrap division re-opened two days after the fire. The rest of the company re-opened about a week after that, using a small house across the street as an office.
Brian said permanently closing the business was never considered.
“Failure was not an option,” he said.
Aaron has owned the auto recycling business since 2000 (although he also previously owned it from 1991 to 1996). His son Brad works there, along with brothers Brian and David.
Aaron said the biggest issue in getting the company up and running again was getting the phones working.
“We couldn’t answer the phone,” he said. “That bothered me quite a lot. The rumors were flying. You want to be back up with phones as soon as possible.”
“A lot of people thought we were closed,” Brian added. “The assumption was, you have a big fire, you’re done. The phone wasn’t ringing. People weren’t coming in.”
In the days after the fire, the Mecca crew focused on “just surviving,” Brian said.
“It was about getting through each day, keeping your sanity, and not getting discouraged,” he said. “It just changed everything. When you come to work and there’s nothing but a pile of ashes, you have to figure out what to do first, what needs to be done, prioritizing. You need to stay positive.”
Brian said his biggest challenge was making sure that all of his employees - over 30 in all — could keep their jobs. Although a few workers lost hours in the first weeks after the fire, not a single job was cut. Everyone continued to work, although now the work included tasks such as shoveling ash or sorting through burned parts
“They definitely were here helping and working,” Brian said. “We’re lucky to have a good group of guys. They did a great job.”
What advice would the Frinks offer other yard owners who might face a business fire or other disaster? Be prepared. Aaron said he regrets not having business interruption insurance.
“Had we had it, the transition would be a lot smoother,” he said.
Work on a new warehouse began in May, with plans for the work to continue through the summer and into the fall. Meanwhile, the company has purchased a second location, Southwest Auto Company, Inc., an established yard in Terre Haute, Ind.
“It’s in a good location, and they had a good reputation,” Brian said. “It’s a nice place, and I’ve always done good business with them.”
Southwest is 30 miles from Mecca Auto Salvage - far enough away to have a different clientele - and came with four employees and a warehouse filled with parts.
The Frinks plan to continue to grow both businesses, rebuild Mecca to be bigger and better than before, and to fill both warehouses with high-quality inventory.
“We’re glad to be here,” Aaron said. “It’s been quite an ordeal.”