Sonny Shines

State-Of-The-Art Facility Sets Standard



Denis Desjardins operates Sonshine Auto Parts in Cumberland, Ontario with strict guidelines; it's almost entirely toxin-free.

PHOTO: DAVID GOOD

Denis Desjardins learned a lesson at age 39; he's better at running an auto recycling business than he is at playing golf.

It was 2002. A third party bought Cumberland Auto Parts, the Ottawa, Ontario-based facility that Desjardins purchased in 1993, sold to Ford Canada in 2000, and managed for the past two years. Desjardins took the opportunity to retire at a young age.

He quickly became bored. Desjardins has been passionate about vehicles since childhood and even turned down college scholarships so he could start a towing company immediately after high school. Retirement didn't agree with him.

"I had a young teenager at home, all my friends were still professionally active and my golf game was not improving," he acknowledged. "I soon realized my daily contacts with customers and friends were an important part of my life."

Within a year, Desjardins opened a state-of-the art auto recycling facility in Vars, Ontario and named it Sonshine Auto Parts (SonshineAutoParts.com), a moniker Desjardins selected to include his personal nickname of Sonny. In 2006, he was able to buy back Cumberland Auto Parts and moved Sonshine Auto Parts to its location in Cumberland, Ontario, a park-like setting that even includes a golf, practice green.

Sonshine Auto Parts now sets the standard for other auto recycling facilities across Canada, said Steve Fletcher, managing director of Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC, AutoRecyclers.ca). Canada's Environment Minister John Baird chose Sonshine Auto Parts to host a national press conference on Clean Air Day 2008, and ARC has hosted two of its member meetings at the facility.

"[The meetings] are always crisply organized and very well attended," Fletcher stated. "Denis is well liked in the industry, and he runs a model operation that most want to see and analyze."

Sonshine Auto Parts also takes an active role in its local community. In addition to supporting local artists, helping the local hospital and sponsoring sports teams, Sonshine Auto Parts allows firefighters to practice at the facility up to three times a week.

"During our last expansion, we designated one area of our yard just for firefighters to practice," explained Don Laniel, Sonshine Auto Parts' business manager. "We feel that being active within the community is probably the best marketing tool we have."

Sonshine Auto Parts' neighbors also appreciate the company's commitment to the environment. Its environmental rules are so strict - going even above and beyond what ARA Gold Seal certification requires - that the facility is practically free of toxins.

"Aside from the contaminant storage areas, we don't have any more toxins on our site than you would probably find in your home," Laniel professed.

Despite Sonshine Auto Parts' progress, Desjardins said more work remains.

"[We want to] become an elite and greener recycler," he said.

"We will also continue to invest in technology, including social media and automated logistics."

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