News / Blog / 06.07.2024

120 Years of Shifting Gears

120 Years of Shifting Gears - Image

As we celebrate our 120th anniversary at Shapiro, I can’t help by think about my father and how hard he worked to maintain and build the business. It brings me back to when he took me to work when I was a little boy. While it felt good to be by his side in a business he loved, I now know he was teaching me a business that was already 50 years old and had been passed on to him by his father, who started the business 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 at the scrap yard.

When I was 12, my father included me in account visits. I specifically remember a valve account in Washington, MO. The 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 our warehouse, and because it was so small, they somehow double stacked the drums. Obviously, there were no OSHA requirements at that time.

The customers liked my dad because he was very friendly. He would often bring 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 and I could tell he loved what he was doing. I was very proud of my dad and his business.

While I liked the visits, I was also extremely interested in going to lunch at local diners that would have apple butter spread for the biscuits. It wasn’t about the lunch, it was more about spending time with him, talking. So many of us miss that opportunity using the drive thru restaurants, but at what cost? It’s the cost of a memory.

As I got a little older in my early teens, I was able to ride in the 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 in1904 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 a number of times. While we always had been in the business of responsibly recycling metals and keeping them out of the 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 when I was almost 15 years old, way too early. I wish that we could still be visiting customers, examining metal, and sitting across from each other and sharing time. Instead, I ask that you shift gears from your busy day and sit across from someone you love and create powerful memories that will someday be shared.