News / Blog / 05.30.2024

120 Years of Shifting Gears

120 Years of Shifting Gears - Image

As we celebrate our 120 the anniversary at Shapiro, I can’t help but think about my father and how hard he worked to maintain and build the business. It brings me back to memories of him taking me to work when I was a little boy. While it felt good to be by his side in a career he loved, I now know he was teaching me to follow in his footsteps in a business that was already 50 years old and had been passed on to him by his father, who began with a pushcart and moved up to a horse and wagon. He was preparing me for the future.

My father rented a small industrial space from a friend before opening a little larger warehouse in the city. The warehouse was about 3000 square feet with one dock. There was a small office/house in front, where our truck driver Sacks Johnson and his wife, Alma Mae lived. She was the nicest lady and kept tabs on me when I was exploring the scrap yard.

When I was 12, my father included me in account visits. I specifically remember a valve account in Washington, Missouri. Their brass turnings were stored in drums and our straight truck was sent to pick up the scrap from their dock. The drums were heavy, up to 1000 pounds, but our team was able to move them around the warehouse, and because it was so small, they somehow double-stacked the drums. Obviously, there weren’t any OSHA requirements at that time.

I could see the customers liked my dad and I thought it was because he was friendly towards everyone he encountered. He often brought a special rye bread to the valve plant. The people in that town were mainly of German descent and loved the bread. It was fun, as a kid, to watch him interact with his customers and I could tell he loved what he was doing. I was very proud of both my dad and his business.

While I liked the customer visits, I was also extremely interested in going to lunch at local diners that served apple butter spread with biscuits. But while I enjoyed the biscuits, it wasn’t about the lunch, it was more about spending time with him, talking. So many of us miss that opportunity when utilizing the convenience of drive-thru restaurants, but at what cost? It’s the cost of a memory.

When I was in my teens, I was able to ride in our trucks and the drivers taught me to shift the gears. It felt powerful and it prepared me to drive my first Ford stick shift. Shifting gears is what companies that are 120 years old often must do. Shapiro started collecting metal in 1904 using a horse and buggy, I’m sure when we moved to using trucks, there was a big shift in what could be accomplished.

In the 50-plus years I’ve been working for Shapiro, we have shifted gears several times. While we always had been in the business of responsibly recycling metals and keeping them out of landfills, moving to full sustainability programs is one concept I never envisioned.

Knowing that every day, our 10 locations and 140+ team members are working to Make the Planet Better Together is truly something my grandfather and dad couldn’t have predicted but I can’t help but think how proud and grateful they would be for all of you.

My father died just before my 15 th birthday, way too early. I wish that we could still be visiting customers, examining metal, and spending time sitting across from each other and sharing biscuits with apple butter. That said, I have a request. I ask that you shift gears from your busy days and carve out time to sit across from someone you love and create the same sort of powerful memories I have of my dad. If you do, they will be the precious moments you will hold in your heart for the rest of your life.