Doug's Auto Recyclers
When Doug and Kim Gray moved from Detroit, Mich. to Coldwater, Mich. in 1983, they intended to purchase auto parts for a new body shop business. But the parts they collected served a different purpose than the couple originally imagined.
Doug scoured salvage pools, buying vehicles to provide parts for his Coldwater body shop. But, as the materials quickly started stacking up, it became clear the Grays had a lot more merchandise than they could utilize. They decided to open an auto recycling business instead, which made more sense than continuing the body shop operation.
Now, 28 years later, Doug's Auto Recyclers (DougsAutoRecyclers.com) has roughly 600 vehicles in its lot and hauls about 200 tons of scrap per month. The business occupies 20 acres and has a five-acre self-service facility.
"The availability of options has always been what has separated us [from other companies]," explained Kim. "People are holding onto their vehicles longer. And we offer an aftermarket option for them, so they don't have to buy new [cars]. Whatever they need, we've got them covered on parts. We opened the self-service yard because we didn't want to have to turn away customers who wanted little, [uncommon] parts."
Doug's Auto Recyclers offers new and used parts, lights, loose metals, vehicle bodies, glass and appliances. Parts are shipped nationwide, and occasionally to Canada. The company also started selling a wide assortment of NAPA Auto Parts products about five years ago.
Education All The Way Around
Doug's Auto Recyclers' staff of eight helps customers with their extensive knowledge of the industry. They regularly frequent state-association trade shows and attend Car-Part.com classes in Kentucky every summer. The Grays are part of a Car-Part.com roundtable group, and Kim is an Automotive Recyclers of Michigan (ARM) past president; her term ended in 2008.
"We try to educate our customers," said Kim. "There are times customers will come to the self-service yard and not know exactly what type of part they need. They're usually on the right track, but for whatever reason, what they grab is wrong. We'll head them in the right direction, and we believe that is what keeps them coming back to our business."
While being one of the state's chief suppliers of auto parts for close to 30 years has helped provide a strong customer base for Doug's Auto Recyclers, it still focuses heavily on advertising. The company advertises in a local newspaper, does radio spots and sponsors area tee ball and men's basketball teams.
Kim said she is also proud that ARM rewarded Doug's Auto Parts with a MI-CAR certification for being one of Michigan's top environmentally-friendly auto recycling facilities.
"People tell me they can't believe [Doug's Auto Recyclers] is a salvage yard because it's so clean," she added. "You don't have to step over 100 things to get [the parts] you want."
Planning A Family Transition
While running the daily operations at the business, Doug and Kim often focus on the future management of the company. All three of their children work for Doug's Auto Recyclers. Andrew Gray, Daniel Gray and Caitlin Gray are all being groomed as future leaders of the business, and Kim says they may get their opportunity soon.
"We would like to get the business transitioned over to the kids," she explained. "We're getting policies in place to ensure their success. We need to get them ready because Doug and I are reaching the point where we need to get to more NASCAR races."
Owners: Doug & Kim Gray
Location: Coldwater, Mich.
Years In Business: 28
Number of Employees: 8