by Donna C. Gregory
Marla and Paul Palma of Auto Recyclers | Photo by Mark Rhodes
Trash has become a treasure for Paul Palma, owner of Auto Recyclers LLC. He has found a market for those soda cans and used printer paper others might toss away.
His company is named Auto Recyclers, but recycling vehicle parts now is a small part of his business. It is, however, how Palma got started.
While working as a mechanic, Palma visited junkyards in search of used parts. While he liked the good deals, he didn’t like the mess or the time it took to locate and extract a part.
He conceived the idea of an indoor “junkyard” where discarded vehicles could be dismantled and then their parts could be tested, inventoried and stored. Palma and his wife, Marla, opened their first indoor junkyard in 2004 in a former Chevy dealership just a block from Winchester’s historic district.
“Everybody told us we were crazy. ‘It’ll never work. You can’t run an indoor salvage yard,’ ” recalls Palma. “If there’s a motivator, tell me it won’t work, and I’ll make it work.”
Palma soon realized he’d underestimated the space needed to store auto parts and began looking for a warehouse. He eventually purchased a brown-field property in Buena Vista in Rockbridge County and set about rehabbing the site. The Buena Vista warehouse opened in January 2008 and now is the headquarters for Auto Recyclers, which continues to operate in Winchester.
The business has evolved from its original concept as Palma discovered that many customers were looking for a place to sell other recyclables, like plastic bottles, cans and paper. “We found out there was good money to be made in recycling,” he says.
Ultimately, he expanded his business to offer a curbside recycling program for residents in Buena Vista and Lexington. Collected items like paper, glass and plastics are sold to mills that recycle them.
Palma is now looking to expand his business again. He’s planning to purchase another warehouse site in Southwest Virginia, and he might branch out into solid waste.
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