Hi-Tech & Hi-Touch: NationWide Takes New Spin on Recycling
PHOTOS BY JILL SWIRBUL PHOTOGRAPHY
NationWide Used Auto Parts in Central Valley, NY, is not your typical salvage yard. Its upscale coffee shop “vibe,” its loyal Instagram following, and its focus on late-model exotic German vehicles are just of few of the reasons. This 10-year-old business is clearly making waves, and it’s due to the unique vision of brothers Mostafa and Rashad Azatullah.
“I’m a newer generation in the business,” explained Mostafa, “and as I was growing up, I watched my parents and brothers run yards. It’s not that they were doing anything wrong; it was just that I saw an opportunity to change the way people look at the used auto parts industry.”
His brother agreed, and when the opportunity presented itself, they purchased the site for NationWide in October 2008. The five-acre property was previously used for a failed auto recycling business. The brothers were determined that this would not be their fate. They worked hard to bring the business up to speed.
“It was not without its challenges,” said Mostafa. “When we first bought the yard, we were working out of a 40-foot trailer that was just sitting on the property. The first three to five years were very difficult, and we struggled a bit. But after that, the business took off.”
That’s when the brothers truly started on the vision. They constructed a state-of-the-art, 16,000 square-foot facility with office space that more resembles a coffee shop or new car dealership than a typical building at a salvage yard. “It’s by far one of the most state-of-the-art auto salvage yards in the northeast,” said Mostafa. “I personally haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. We get a lot of compliments when customers walk in. They ask, is this really for used auto parts?”
Mostafa very much enjoys their response. It was exactly what he had hoped. “I have always loved the salvage industry, but I didn’t like the way that people looked at it,” he said. “They would see people running around with mud on their shoes and grease on their nose and think this is a junkyard. But it’s so much more. By taking the extra steps to create this beautiful space and require our 22 employees to walk around with clean, white shoes and clean clothes, we’ve totally changed the perception. Our employees take pride in working here, and both they and the customers appreciate what we’ve done.”
Over the last four or five years, they have become known for their late-model German vehicles. NationWide specializes in OEM parts for Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. Their customers, mostly based in the tri-state area, are the focus at the company.
“I constantly remind our salespeople, drivers and employees that just because we’re in the recycled part world doesn’t mean that we adjust our customer service accordingly,” said Mostafa. “We approach customers the way that we would want to be approached if we were making a purchase or a return at a high-end store. Whether it’s a one-time customer or a returning customer, we will always take care of them.”
That dedication has built a loyal following. Mostafa noted that he’s had a customer sleep outside the shop overnight to be the first to get a flat tire repaired in the morning. “You can offer the 10 percent back promotions, extended warranties, etc. Those are all within our business, but we find that if you have a direct relationship with the customer, that’s best. When they’re in need of help and you go out of your way to help them, that means the most, and it’s what keeps them coming back.”
Mostafa and his brother not only have a beautiful facility but a strong online presence. They have numerous Google Reviews, and are on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, they have more than 12,000 followers on Instagram. “The days of the Yellow Page are long gone,” said Mostafa. “Everything today is handheld social media. I have had people walk in here and say, ‘I just saw a part because I follow you on Instagram.’ I’ve seen a huge benefit from being on social media and online.”
Currently, the business is doing about 10-15 percent online via their eBay store and online platform on their website. Mostafa’s goal is to be at over 50 percent in four to five years. “Right now, a lot of orders originate online but then customers call in and the salesperson fulfills the order. My idea is to make the whole process ‘new generation’-friendly, where someone logs onto an app on their phone and it says buy now.”
On the occasion of the business’ tenth anniversary, Mostafa looks back at all that they’ve already accomplished. “I started the business in my twenties,” he said, “and at the time was looking at some of the bigger outfits that are in the industry. I wanted to be at their level if not exceed their level as far as customer service and quality of parts. Those were the goals that I set for myself. We’re now one of the leading auto recyclers in the northeast; I think that about 95 percent of those goals have been accomplished.”
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, he is preparing for change. “I don’t see people calling anymore in the next five or six years; everything is going to be online. Why not prepare for it now? Recyclers should be putting inventory online and setting up user-friendly systems for purchases. Prepare for that now and get ahead of the change.”
“I don’t have major goals like when we started,” he said. “I’d love to continue growth at this rate, but I know it’s not realistic. I’ll be happy to simply improve the business and make it the best it can be.”