Used car treasures: Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton expanding fast

  • Giovanni Ramos of Holyoke removes a dashboard faceplate from a Honda sedan in the “U-Pull It Yard” of Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton on Monday, to replace his that was broken when his car radio was stolen. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Highway Auto Salvage employee Phillip Smith prepares to remove the engine and transmission from a Hyundai in the garage of the Northampton business on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Roxanne Ackerson, one of the owners of Chuck and Eddie’s, which took over Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Saturno, a manager at Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton, takes a call about a potential vehicle purchase on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Roxanne Ackerson, one of the owners of Chuck and Eddie’s that took over Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Osvaldo Grajales, left, and Giovanni Ramos, both of Holyoke, visit the “U-Pull It Yard” at Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton to find a part for Ramos’s Honda on Monday, May 3. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2021 1:39:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The phones were buzzing on a recent weekday morning at Highway Auto Salvage, where employees answered questions about car parts in English and Spanish.

An expansive sign hanging on the back wall of the small sales office listed the wares available for those dropping by with their own tools, ready to pick the parts off any of the 1,200 cars on the lot: everything from bug guards and ashtrays to oxygen sensors and pistons.

“We recycle the whole car,” said Roxanne Ackerson, one of the owners of the Connecticut-based chain Chuck and Eddie’s, which took over the salvage yard several years ago. “We sell everything. Sometimes people just need a door handle, a gas cap … All the way to motors and engines.”

Highway Auto Salvage runs specials on occasion, allowing people to get deals on a bucket full of parts, for example.

“As long as you can drag it up front,” Ackerson said, noting that the parts in the cars are the original manufacturer parts. That allows people to fix their cars without spending lots of money on new parts from a dealership, for example. “It keeps cars on the road.”

One customer recently visiting the salvage yard was Giovanni Ramos, of Holyoke. He was on the lookout for a plastic dashboard faceplate to replace the one thieves cracked when they recently broke into his car to steal his radio.

So Ramos called around to a few places and realized he could get those parts cheaper from Highway Auto Salvage — his primary reason for visiting. He said he spent a few hours removing the parts from the car, but that it was ultimately worth the effort.

“I know I could have went to a dealership, but what’s the point?” Ramos said. “I’ll pay less at the junkyard.”

The parts of the car that aren’t salvaged by those arriving at the yard with their own tools get sent to the company’s shredder in Connecticut, Ackerson said. Everything gets scrapped for materials, except for the seats.

Ackerson said business slowed down last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns shuttered businesses across the country. But she said business is back again now, and that the chain is expanding.

Chuck and Eddie’s has been around since the 1940s, started by Ackerson’s grandfather and passed down to her father when he came home from the Vietnam War. He expanded the business to several locations in Connecticut, and in 2018 the company took over Highway Auto Salvage. Ackerson said that at that time, the place only had a handful of cars on site, a drastic difference compared to the bustling pace today.

Today, Ackerson said Highway Auto Salvage has around 15 employees, and that the business is purchasing approximately 20 cars per day — a pace the owners hope to double by the end of the summer. She said the business is looking to hire laborers, counter sales employees, accounting and dispatch employees. And they have been able to invest in two new car carriers, a new payloader and a new forklift.

Ackerson said there is currently no better time to sell your car to a salvage business. That’s because markets for the precious metals found in catalytic converters are better than her family has ever seen them. Whereas previously the company bought cars based on steel prices, they now do so based on prices for those precious metals.

“If you have a junk car in your driveway, now is a great time to get rid of it,” she said. “It’s a great time to sell that junk that has just been sitting there.”

Highway Auto Salvage is the first location that Chuck and Eddie’s has purchased outside Connecticut, and Ackerson said they have enjoyed their newest home.

“This is a great community,” she said. “People love recycling here.”

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