Transforming Property
Speedway Auto Parts takes an old foundry, a city eyesore in a bad part of town, and transforms it into Ashley's U-Pick-A-Part, educating the local council about the industry and funding a worthwhile charity in the process,

Pure hard work… Relentlessly motivated… Driven… That just about says it all about father and son team Paul Krause, owner and President of Speedway Auto Parts Ltd., Joliet, Illinois, and Sean, Secretary and Chief Operations Officer of Speedway. “I think our success comes from pure drive and always wanting to do better,” Sean said. “Although he’s pushed me to the forefront to participate in our member organizations, like ARA, my father still works seven days a week and is still out there looking to do new things.” Proof of that is the anticipated June opening of their newest enterprise Ashley’s U-Pick-A-Part, “We are excited to join ARA with this location, too.”

Paul and his wife Indra founded Speedway in 1969. “My mother and father came from England in 1967,” Sean said. “My father worked for his stepfather and then saw an ad in the Chicago Tribune for a junkyard and house. It was a trailer and an old muddy junkyard on five acres behind an old quarry in Lemont, Illinois. My mother and father worked very hard to grow the business, expanding over the years into several markets such as residential rentals, and body shop, mechanical, and insurance businesses.”

From Lemont, Speedway moved three or four times before settling on their current 10-acre location (a former scrapyard that processed metals dating as far back as the thirties) in 1974. “My dad had a lot of cleaning up to do,” Sean said. “He always processed automotive salvage correctly, such as barreling oil and using it in our waste oil furnaces, reusing gas, and selling antifreeze in gallon jugs. We like to keep a clean operation, be consistent, and stay ahead of the housekeeping.”
Sean came into the company in 1991 after graduating from college with a degree in business. “I grew up in the business,” Sean said. “I’ve always worked with my father, and we always end each day with a hug. We don’t end the day in an argument that’s for sure. We’ll get rid of the business before that happens.”

A member of ARA since 1972, CAR and Gold Seal certified, Speedway operates out of a 72,000 square foot building the size of two football fields long. There are four dismantling bays, labeled warehouse inner racking, and computerized parts locations. Everything is synced through their Pinnacle Yard Management System computer system.

Speedway operates with two full-time dismantlers, two office staff, four salespeople, three employees in production and inventory, and three drivers. The Krause’s Chief Financial Officer Tracie Garcia handles their six corporations. “Tracie has been with us for just over two years,” Sean said, “and my father wishes she had been here from the start! Without several of our key employees, we could not be where we are today.”

The Krause’s are also grateful to Counts Business Consulting. Robert Counts came to Speedway and helped them handle their rapid growth – since 2006, they’ve increased their business by 12-13 percent. “We were growing in the sense that we didn’t know how to handle the growth,” Sean said. “We still sell to the big shops, but we saw a diversification of our customer base with the shift in the economy, more walk-ins. Counts and the 10-user focus group helped us create structure and departmentalize, draw up job descriptions, and make the employees accountable each day for their tasks and responsibilities. Also, Counts taught us to hire talent, so I did!”

Speedway, which sells auto salvage, aftermarket, and remanufactured parts nationwide, processes about 750 vehicles a year. Looking to double their business, with a different business model, they decided to open an indoor/outdoor self-service salvage facility. “We named the yard Ashley’s because she is my father’s first granddaughter from my older sister,” Sean said. “She has a condition called William’s Syndrome, and our goal is to work with United Way or the Special Olympics to make donations from the revenues that Ashley’s U-Pick-A-Part generates.”

Ashley’s, which used to be an old foundry surrounded by trees and weeds that had to be removed, sits on 12 acres, with a 60,000 square foot building. “We put down stone and fill in the building that basically turns into cement,” Sean said. “We are also using the stone/fill on the outside salvage lot like we did at Speedway. We can fit about 320 salvage vehicles in-side, with another 500-600 outside. There will be staff to assist customers as well as pull large items for them in a 3-bay dismantling facility.”

They put all the cars on wheel stands; put skylights throughout the building; redid a separate 3,000 square foot building for office space; poured a concrete parking lot for 120 customer spaces (not forgetting the handicap railings and spaces); brought the electric, gas, water, fire alarms up to code; tied their inventory into their Pinnacle system; etc.

It would seem ‘the devil would be in all the details,’ but the challenge in the forefront of this project came first with getting permission from Joliet to open this type of facility.

“We get along well with the city because we are about the only ones who develop property on this side of town,” Sean said, “which is considered the suspect side of town. We are kitty-corner to the old Joliet Collins Street Prison.

“We first took our idea to the zoning board. They said sure if it’s going to add employment and more tax base. It’s good for the community, and it’s saving the consumer money.

“Then we went in front of the city council, and at first they said absolutely not because it’s just going to be another junkyard. An exact quote from one of them was, ‘you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.’ 

“I explained that it is true that there are quite a few junkyards in the area. I offered to work with Will County EPA to help clean up those through our ARA Gold Seal and CAR certification programs and our state green yard program. I presented them with our green yard self-audit and the CAR certification parameters, the strict guidelines we’ve put ourselves under by basically volunteering to do that to ourselves.

“I let them know my involvement with our national and state associations: I was a regional director in ARA, president from around 2008-2010 and still on the board of the Auto Truck Recyclers of Illinois (ATRI), and am on the board of Quality Replacement Parts MidWest (QRPMW). Sean also credits his peers from QRPMW “without whose advice and help our expansion would not have been possible.”

Then Sean gave a tour of Speedway to two women council members. That night the council took a vote and Ashley’s got a 7/0 approval. “One of the city council members said, ‘If you are going to add jobs, add value to the tax base, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t help, plus you’re going to save people money who need it for groceries, this thing sounds like a great project,’ Sean said.

The council was impressed by the way the Krause’s ran their facility, and they respected the family for what they’ve done. “We turned them around,” Sean said, “but I’ll tell you it was a direct responsibility of being part of ARA and our state associations. I would never have had the education or the wherewithal to come up with any of that had I not been participating on a national and state level. Gaining the education works.” Paul and Indra came to this country to live the American dream, and with hard work, they were successful. “Our hope is that someday,” Sean said, “We can hand the business down to the third generation.”

D. L. Foor is a freelance writer and editor in Florida

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