Junkers pay off for auto salvage yard
In 1970, Jack Butler and his wife, Ruth, were raising three children on one income, his teacher's salary, and they were just getting by. He realized they needed more.
"After school, I did paint and body work just to make extra money," Butler said, "but working for someone else didn't amount to a lot of cash, so I decided to do the work for myself."
Butler bought "junker" cars, fixed them up and sold them. As his business grew, he opened a car lot in Ensley, hiring people to operate the lot while he still taught in the classrooms of Escambia County. In the evenings and on days off, he worked as a salesman and mechanic on the lot.
"My dad, James Cecil Butler, always wanted to restore and sell cars, so I suppose his dream became mine," Butler said. "He also told me there was money to be made in the salvage business which he called junk yards."
Butler began to accumulate cars that he had stripped for parts, and realized there was still value in the rest of the usable parts and the bodies, which could also be sold as scrap metal. His sideline business began to grow, and in 1977 he opened his first salvage yard on Highway 29 in Molino, and in 1979, his second salvage yard on Johnson Avenue. It was time to give up teaching.
In 1980, he sold the Molino yard to Woodroe Neese and concentrated on the Johnson Avenue store. The business was profitable, and the children were getting old enough to help, so he opened a body shop, car lot and a truck parts place on Pensacola Boulevard at Nine Mile Road in Ensley.
Success was the result of hard work, Butler said. "That, and a strong desire to succeed. I wanted to do more than my parents had, and I looked at everything as a challenge. If I wasn't successful at one thing, I went another direction."
That change of direction came in 1994 when the old "Car City Salvage Yard" went on the market. "That was an awful-looking place," Butler said. "We purchased it and began to clean it up. In fact, we won a Beautification Award certificate from the Certified Auto Recyclers for the clean-up work we did there."
Now, Butler Auto Salvage Inc. is a model of efficiency. The Butlers built a modern office and showroom in the front of the salvage yard. They now have buildings for parts' removal and clean-up, storage and a garage area for automobile engines. The wrecked automobiles are stacked in rows, on racks that tower four and five cars high. The yard employees 30 people, and even provides an exercise room with a tred mill and other machines.
In addition to the salvage yard and parts sales place in Car City, the Butlers opened Butler U-Pull-It auto parts store on Hollywood Boulevard, employing five. The Johnson Avenue location was closed in 1998.
Four members of the family are active in the management of the growing business. Two of the children, Jim and Cheryl, are officers in the company. Jim, the oldest, is vice president of the enterprise, Cheryl Nelson is the president of the U-Pull-It operation, and Ruth Butler acts as secretary and treasurer of the corporation.
"Ruth has been a strong supporter of my efforts," Butler said. "My faith in God, my strong right hand, Ruth, and the children have contributed to the business' success."
According to Jim Butler, the business is the largest dismantler and recycler of the late-model cars and trucks. "We dismantle between 1,200 and 1,500 vehicles a year, clean the parts in an environmentally safe system and test them before they're stored on shelves or in bins."
The parts are cataloged for instant handling when customers place an order. Butler's computerized inventory and a modern management system keep parts updated and readily available. Butler's has access to 25,000 other salvage yard through a computer link.
According to the Automotive Recycler's Association of Fairfax, Va., automotive recycling has a global impact. "There's more to recycled parts than saving money," according to their brochure. "Recycled parts save the energy needed to mine and refine ores and minerals used to make raw materials for the new parts. Based on an annual average of seven million vehicles processed in the U.S., the recycling industry recycles more than two million tons of cast iron, seven million tons of steel, and one-half million tons of aluminum each year."
One-study estimates that the automotive recycling industry saves the equivalent of 80 million barrels of oil annually that otherwise would be used to manufacture new parts.
Some salvage yards are consolidating now, Butler said. "Ford Motor Company has been buying yards and getting into the salvage business. Other automobile manufacturers may follow."
"We don't want to be the largest recycler in the state, we just want to be the best."