After 70 years in business, junkyard still evolving
Times were hard in 1942, when the U.S. was in the midst of World War II. But it was because of the war that one of Haywood County's oldest businesses started with an unlikely entrepreneur.
Betsy Schulhofer's husband, Jake, was serving in the military in France at the time, leaving her with sole responsibility to put food on the table for their 4-year-old son, Bill.
At the time, demand for metal was tremendous, so Betsy started her own business going from house to house collecting scrap metal and having it recycled for profit. Even after the war was over, Jake stayed overseas two more years as a hospital medic in Europe.
When he returned home in 1946, he landed a job working for the town of Waynesville. But to supplement the income, Betsy continued growing the business, which would later be known as Schulhofer's Junkyard.
In 1951, the business had grown so much that Jake and Betsy began leasing property beside the old Howell Mill lumber yard, which was near where Rite Aide currently sits.
Their son, Bill Schulhofer, grew up in the thick of the business learning the trade from his parents. Even at the tender age of 17, he had a keen business sense, so he quit school and expanded the junkyard to include automobile parts and recycling in 1955.
Three years later, the junkyard grew even more and the family moved to its current location just down the road on Howell Mill Road.
Sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, Bill Sr. worked with the U.S. Department of Mining and Natural Resources to build the first automobile incinerator east of Salt Lake City, Utah. This was a giant step in progressivism, Scotty Schulhofer, Bill Sr.'s son said.
“At the time there were no auto shredders or crushers, so the only way to recycle an automobile was for it to be burned,” he said.
There were also new laws for air quality control that banned people from openly burning products. The incinerator was 99 percent pollution free because it burned the smoke it created, said Bill Schulhofer Jr.
But when fuel prices increased from 10 cents to $1 per gallon in the mid 70s, the invention of the shredder made the incinerator no longer feasible to operate.
The Schulhofers continued to operate by recycling almost any type of metal and automobile. And as the years went by, the junkyard continued to be a family run business.
Eventually Bill Sr.'s two sons, Scotty and Bill Jr. found themselves spending weekends and breaks from school at the junkyard.
“From the time we were 10 or 12 years old, we spent our summers learning the business,” Scotty Schulhofer said.
Bill Jr. started working in the business in 1981 and Scotty joined his brother in 1989 and became involved with the complete process of recycling cars and liquid oil, antifreeze, Freon, etc.
Cars and trucks no longer cover the property as it once did. The Schulohofers stopped accepting auto parts about five years ago, Scotty Schulhofer said.
The junkyard has seen several changes through the years, but this year has brought some of the biggest.
Plans to widen Howell Mill Road forced the Schulhofers to sell three acres of their 20-acre property to the N.C. Department of Transportation. The building that was used as the main office was recently torn down along with two other warehouses.
Because of the change, the Schulhofers built a brand new office building on the far right side of the property fully equipped with a state-of-the-art security camera system and large digital scales.
Architect Randy Cunningham with Mountain Design drew up the plans and Tim Sisk was the contractor on the job.
“We’re proud of our new building,” Scotty Schulhofer said.
Once the new road is completed, the entrance to the junkyard will be adjacent to the Waynesville Recreation Center and will lead customers directly to the main office building.
They’ve also recently ventured into the wood recycling business. With the help of a tub grinder, they are able to grind brush and stumps to produce double-ground yard mulch.
“We charge people a small fee to dispose of their brush and it’s recycled into mulch,” Schulhofer said, adding they believe they’re selling the product at a highly competitive price. “We’re trying to do this and sell a good, affordable product.”
Schulhofer's also still stays true to the business Betsy started 70 years ago by purchasing scrap metal such as steel, aluminum and copper.
As the business continues to change and grow, the brothers say they really have their father to thank for where they are today.
“We want to thank him for his advice, knowledge and the opportunity he gave us. Without him we would not have ever had the opportunity to be in business. We still ask him for advice,” Scotty Schulhofer said.
Visit Schulhofer's Junkyard at 816 Howell Mill Road, Waynesville or call them at 828-456-9408.