Bensenville's Victory Auto Wreckers gets a makeover
Just about everybody knows Victory Auto Wreckers for its iconic TV commercial.
You know the one: Filmed in 1985 and looking at least a decade older, it shows a guy getting a fan-shaped bundle of cash for his jalopy, even though one of its doors has fallen off.
But owner Kyle Weisner says there's something else the Bensenville business has long been known for: Mud. Lots and lots of mud.
"We are almost as famous for our mud as we are for our commercial," said Weisner, the third-generation owner of Victory at 710 E. Green St.
Even on dry summer days, anyone searching for parts on Victory's 9-acre lot has had to deal with dirt and dust. And when it rained or snowed, well, things tended to get extremely sloppy.
"There really was no perfect time at Victory," Weisner said. "We might have gotten a few days a year where you didn't completely get your clothes destroyed by coming into the place."
All that is about to change.
For one thing, Weisner says Victory is launching a contest in which it's inviting fans to make their own commercial to celebrate the 30th anniversary this May of the original. Entries can re-create what's become a classic or take a whole new approach.
For another, recent expansion and renovation work has not only substantially increased the number of cars Victory can house, but given the facility a new, cleaner look. Weisner says all that mud was paved over with asphalt after the business voluntarily enrolled in an Environmental Protection Agency program.
"We're excited for our customers to have a great experience coming out to the yard," said Jesse Padilla, Victory's marketing director. "It's going to be easy for them to get what they need."
Having the lot paved also makes it possible for Victory to expand its inventory from 350 cars to as many as 900. All those vehicles will be elevated on stands for safety and easy access to parts.
In addition, the business has upgraded its stormwater management system and improved the interior of its parts supply building. Remaining work, including the installation of the fencing, is expected to be done in the spring.
"It's a makeover literally from the ground up," Weisner said.
He said one goal of the multimillion dollar project is to improve the overall appearance of the automotive recycling facility.
Weisner said he doesn't want Victory to have "the dinginess" that most people associate with junkyards and wrecking yards.
For example, Victory for years used dogs -- yes, junkyard dogs -- to prevent theft. Not anymore.
About six months ago, the Rottweilers and German shepherds were replaced with security cameras that are constantly monitored. If anything suspicious is spotted, the police are called.
"It kind of goes along with the whole image," Weisner said. "Before, it was like we were in the 18th century. We had no sophistication. Now we're a much classier place. We don't have junkyard dogs anymore. We let technology take care of it."
Victory also is using technology to make it easier for customers to find what they need. People searching for parts can visit the website to see what cars are in stock.
"We even have an app that notifies them when new cars come into the yard." said Padilla, adding the business recently changed to 100 percent self-service, which requires customers to do the labor.
While the various site improvements are new, the work could have been done years ago, according to Weisner.
"We've wanted to make changes for quite a while," said Weisner, adding the business started working with the EPA on an environmental cleanup of the site about 20 years ago.
Despite developing a plan to improve its property, Victory wasn't allowed by the village to make those changes until just recently.
In fact, Bensenville officials years ago attempted to shut down the business, but lost in court.
The village passed a local law in 2002 requiring all junkyards, incinerators and wrecking yards to cease operation within two years. As part of a ruling in September 2004, however, a DuPage County judge defined Victory as a recycling center.
Today, more than 12,000 cars from the facility are recycled each year, officials said.
"We've been recycling since before recycling really was a word," Weisner said.
Victory has been buying cars and selling parts at the same location since it was founded in 1945. Weisner said his family has owned the business since 1967.
"They didn't use the word recycle back in those times," he said. "But there's no question that we're an automotive recycling facility."
The business processes more than 2,000 tons of crushed cars each month. Roughly 85 percent of the parts that make up a car are recycled, according Weisner. "It's one of the most recycled products in the United States," he said.