When Max Knopf returned home from World War II in 1945, there weren't a lot of employment opportunities. So he created his own.
Max bought a truck and traveled from his native Brooklyn, N.Y. to area salvage yards buying scrap metal, starters, alternators, engines and transmissions. He began his 12-hour delivery day at the crack of dawn. The metals were usually delivered to Morris Rosenberg Scrap Metal, and the parts went to Belmont Automotive Co., Inc.
Max didn't know it at the time, but it would be the start of a business, Knopf Automotive, LLC that would become an international powerhouse.
"He was truly at the forefront of the rebuilding industry," said Marshall Knopf, Max's son and now co-owner of the business with his brother Woody Knopf. "At that time, people really only collected starters and alternators. Our father started collecting other parts - master cylinders, power steering pumps, electronic control modules, disc brake calipers. He really was at the cusp of a new industry."
Today the business, in Red Bank, N.J., specializes in two areas. It is both an international core supplier and a new OEM parts distributor.
Pick Your Core
"We are the only fully-integrated, core-supply, new-parts distributor in the world," said Woody. "Most everyone else in cores sells customers power steering parts and nothing else. We can supply the power steering pump and the parts to fix them, and we do that on multiple product lines."
Knopf Automotive (MMKnopf.com) operates seven warehouses in the United States and processes more than 10 million cores annually.
"We have 5,700 vendors and are part of the 4,000-yard Coremate dismantler network," explained Marshall. "We have supply agreements with folks who remanufacture 8 million units a year. Parts are brought into our facilities, barcoded and inventoried by their exact OEM number."
The new OEM parts side of the business is equally successful.
Growing Through Partnerships
"In 1994, we partnered with Delphi Saginaw to help them distribute the complete steering line to the re-manufacturer," noted Woody. "This includes rack and pinion, power steering pumps, integral gears, front wheel drive axles and their components. We distribute through Saginaw Steering superstars, the largest aftermarket distributor of new repair components for steering in the United States."
Knopf Automotive also had a partnership with Delco Remy, in which Marshall and Woody played the role of consultants. The brothers officially bought Delco Remy in 2007.
While Knopf Automotive is already established as a leading core provider, the business still focuses on growing.
"Recently, we began advertising to add more collection sites," Marshall noted. "We have huge demands on the customer side for product."
Already on the path to expansion, Knopf Automotive extended its metal business to include processing, smelting and annually refining millions of pounds of nonferrous scrap and catalytic converters.
"We've been very lucky," said Woody. "The people we partnered with from the beginning have grown to become major national rebuilders. That has helped us grow internationally."
Working with large manufacturers and helping them source quality products is an aspect of the business Woody said he enjoys, while his brother relishes the social connections.
"We have a lifetime of relationships with our customers and our employees," said Marshall. "I would say that, along with my family, is what defines who I am."
Owners: Marshall Knopf & Woody Knopf
Location: Red Bank, N.J.
Years In Business: 66
Number of Employees: 100+