New Recyclers Deliver Quality Fast

Jason Clemen

For the past 10 years, the Beckman family thought about opening an auto recycling facility. After all, they already had a used car dealership in downtown Waterloo, Iowa. Auto recycling seemed like a natural fit.

“We were spending a lot of money on parts to fix up our cars, and knew that there was an opportunity to be successful at it,” said Brian Beckman, who now owns Airline Auto Parts along with his parents, Glenn and Charlene Beckman.

The idea was just a pipe dream until the family started looking around more seriously in 2012. They found a facility built in 2007 but never opened, and purchased the 40-acre parcel, which included 16 acres of fenced recycling yard. (The remainder is being farmed, but available for future expansion.) It was an ambitious endeavor. The Beckmans bought it in September 2012 and opened a month later, despite having to start from scratch, according to Brian.

“There were probably 50 to 55 used cars here,” he said. “But as far as the building goes, it was essentially a shell. There was no racking; there were no hoists. We had to run water back to the dismantling bays. We had quite a bit to do right off the bat.”

Fortunately - or unfortunately - the lack of customers at the beginning gave them time to get things set up. “I’d be working here and thinking, why am I paying for a phone line again?” said Brian. “The only people who know we’re here have my cell phone number.”

That changed fairly quickly as the word spread. The Beckmans joined the Iowa Automotive Recyclers association (IAR) and the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA). “It goes back to our experience with the used car business,” explained Brian. “We were members of state and national associations and that opened a lot of doors and protected us with legislative updates. I knew the benefits of joining. I also knew I’d be able to find a vendor who offers a credit card processor that ties into our yard management system. Not only that, I knew that they would find me, which happened about a month-and-a-half after we joined.”

Even with some basic knowledge, and help from IAR and ARA, becoming auto recyclers has been a huge education for the Beckmans.

“There are significant differences between selling used cars and selling used parts,” Brian explained. “In the used car business, if a fender has a little scratch of ding, it’s no big deal. But in the salvage business, that might be enough to disqualify the part for an insurance job. Recycling is a lot more detail oriented. In the used car business, I wouldn’t necessarily take apart the molding to look underneath for rust, but we do that now. It takes longer for us to process cars and parts but I feel confident that it’s going to be a quality part going out the door.”

Customers can make purchases in a variety of ways, and if you’re not local, Airline Auto Parts has parts listed on eBay and “We’ve been fortunate enough to have some good parts at good prices,” said Brian. “Our online customer is anyone who has the ability to search out a part.” The website even includes a Spanish search option. “We have some customers who might be more comfortable looking up a part in their native language to make sure they’re getting the right one.”

Brian prides himself on getting a quality part out quickly. “The thing that has helped us grow is the speed at which we can deliver the part,” he said. “I’ll tell a yard that the part will ship today, and sometimes they’ll tell me they don’t need it right away. I’ll tell them that if they don’t want to deliver to the customer right away, that’s fine but they’ll have it. If you give someone a quality part as fast as you can get it to them, they’re going to remember that.”

Brian handles the local deliveries himself and often makes two to three runs per day. “If customers need something in a hurry, I’ll make a special trip for him,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We’ll go the extra mile so they’ll keep ringing our phones.”

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