Beyond the Track with Pull A Part...From Animal hides to Recycled Cars, Four Generations of American Entrepreneurship

September 1, 2016

 

Brothers Bernard and Gerald Cohen didn’t come from wealth or high and mighty roots.  They just knew they needed to help their father, Morris, feed their family and a great depression in America to overcome.  So they did what they could do to survive those times, they became peddlers.  Working high in the Appalachian Mountains they acquired a skill for obtaining animal hides, which they would peddle in the streets of Atlanta.  They thought they were just feeding their families, but what the Cohen brothers and their father, Morris, didn't realize, is they were building a foundation of spirited entrepreneurship that would continue in their family for generations. 

 

Alan Cohen, Mark Cohen, and Marty Kogon represent the third generation of the family business, and they took things to a whole new level.   They changed their focus and began concentrating more on the returns that came from recycling metal.  And they had already moved the Central Metals and Hides business in downtown Atlanta to a larger location, and then became Central Metals Recycling Company.  Central Metals became a huge regional player with one of the largest steel shredders in the southeast and several remote feeder yards throughout the Atlanta metro area.  In addition, Central Metals also owned a successful waste removal business, as well as computer business at different times. The next venture began in 1997 and Pull-A-Part, LLC was born.  The focus changed from full service scrap metal recycling to used auto parts retail with a self-service model.  And in 1998, the first Pull- A -Part retail store opened on the north side of Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Today the company is approaching their 20th year in business and is the largest privately held self-service used auto parts retailer and recycler in the country. They have 25-locations around the nation and more store openings on the horizon.  Pull-A-Part recycles hundreds of thousands of vehicles.   They have always had a mindset to be better by focusing on customer service and an innovative approach to the business. 

 

When you visit a Pull- A -Part location it's a pleasant surprise from their typical competitor.  Their yards are clean, safe and have a well thought out design that allows finding that right part quick and easy. One of the most impressive facts is that Pull-A-Part is still being managed by the 4th generation of family members.  It's their continued innovative spirit passed down from Morris that led Pull-A-Part's Gregg Cohen to involve the company in the motorsports industry.   

 

Pull A Part Doesn't Just Sell to the Motorsports Industry, they Give Back...

 

 

 

Racers often need that special part for their race car that simply can't be found in a new retail market.  And for some they need a whole car to start a new team or a new project.  Pull A Part has become a staple destination for racers.  From Camaro’s, Mustang’s, Maita’s, and Honda's, to BMW's and even the occasional Porsche, Pull- A- Part provides an opportunity for vehicles that were left for certain auto death to be restored by racers and resurrected to a new life on the race track. 

 

Gregg Cohen recognized the motorsports industry as an opportunity and began incorporating the racing culture into the Pull-A-Part.  Like many companies that enter the motorsports industry with a similar mindset, the racing industry ends up paying larger dividends than anticipated.  Pull-A-Part has reaped the benefits of motorsports not just in vehicle and auto part sales, but in forming new relationships with customers and vendors alike.  It has proved to be a tremendous networking opportunity to build new business beyond the race track.   

 

"When we first entered motorsports as a sponsor we thought it would just be about driving more racing related business to the Pull-A-Part stores, but it's become so much more," said Gregg Cohen.  "We have developed several relationships throughout the racing community that have led us to even more opportunities for our business.  Teamwork and meticulous preparation in the world of racing are attributes that we also share and incorporate into our business.  Of course we love the speed and excitement of racing, and we know many of our customers are race fans or participants, as well."  

 

Pull -A -Part gives back to the motorsports industry as a sponsor of several racing teams, race tracks and racing series within the NASCAR, NASA, as well as other grassroots racing series around the country.  They became an instant contributor to the United States Motorsports Association, when they learned about the work that they were doing to protect the industry. 

 

 

 

One example of how racing sponsorships has had an impact on their business and the community is with the sponsoring of driver, Derek “Kane” Long, who races out of Mobile and Pensacola. Every time Kane finishes in the top three, Pull-A-Part and Kane donate funds to Childhood Cancer Research Awareness, which is something that has become a personal passion to Gregg Cohen and Pull-A-Part.     

 

Special Note: The month of September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Let's not only stop to pray for those children and families going through battles with cancer, but please take action!

 

Who Knew? Pull -A- Part is Keeping our Drinking Water Safe!

 

Over 10 million cars are recycled in the US each year.  Many of these vehicles (built prior to 2003) may contain small mercury switches to control convenience lighting (under the hood and/or trunk).  Each of these switches contain enough mercury to contaminate 132,000 gallons of water, above EPA drinking water standards.  Pull-A-Part is in the top 5 companies nationally, in the removal and recycling of these switches.  In 2008 they hosted the US EPA Administrator at their Atlanta South location, as he removed the one millionth switch as part of an EPA program.  In attendance were US Senator Johnny Isaksson, US Senator Saxby Chambliss, as well as other elected officials. There have now been over four million switches removed as part of this program, and this is just one of Pull-A-Part’s many environmental accomplishments throughout the company

 

The Takeaway, what we all can learn from Pull -A- Part...

 

There is a fine balance in business and in life between moving with the times and knowing when to stand your ground as fads and trends come and go.  Pull -A -Part has had four generations who have recognized an opportunity and then seized upon it.  Even today many businesses hold on to the past or attach too much emotion around their current product or service. 

 

If you were a buggy whip manufacturer before the automobile was introduced, then you may have loved the buggy-whip business. But, no matter how much you are emotionally tied to that business, the world changed with the automobile. If you're not moving with the times you'll be passed up and ultimately put out of business.  The key is finding the right balance of waiting, researching and then not hesitating when you know it's time to make a change.  Our racing industry is constantly changing, and we are best served to look for an opportunity within that change rather than placing our heads in the sand just because change is sometimes difficult.    

Take a note from Pull- A- Part's four generation-old playbook.  They look for the next opportunity, while at the same time work hard to be the best in their business, today.  What they look like today may not be how they look tomorrow.  They are always anticipating the future, questioning it, evaluating it, and remaining a leader in their industry.  Any company that started in the great depression and has lasted four-generations is worth paying attention to.  And of course is worth stopping by one of their locations if you need that special part, pre-owned car or motorcycle, or even if you just want to sell them your end of life vehicle.

 

In their own words they are not a junk-yard or an auto recycler, but rather...

 

"Pull A Part is here to help people. People rely on transportation and accessibility to get from point A to B or to get from the starting line to the finish line.  We help people get to work, as well as help them get their kids to school.  We like to view ourselves as a company that isn't just selling parts and recycling cars, but that is also truly helping our customers." 

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