Recycler to Watch: A Dream Come True

Jul 1, 2023 | Industry

How one Daurio Auto and Truck employee found his place in America – and in the family.

By Caryn Smith

The bond that he’s basically started with my dad years ago, has continued with my brother, Mike, and I, and now my son, Greg.  That mutual loyalty has transferred from down from one generation to the next.

Nick Daurio

In the auto recycling community, it is not unusual to see new hires come and go quickly, and seasoned employees jump to other pastures – and even some rare employees who stay for an entire career at one facility. Finding potential legacy employees is difficult, yet when you discover their dedication and passion for the business, you work hard to keep them.

Oftentimes, what keeps people at one facility for their duration of their career is the feeling of being a valued member of the “family.” Benefits like generous salary, healthcare, and vacation plans are great incentives. Yet, for many, the ultimate workplace benefit is finding a greater purpose in a place that values your wellbeing and offers growth potential as a person. This is something you cannot put a price tag on. That kind of culture is a signature mark of the automotive recycling industry worldwide as a business model that celebrates generational leadership and develops a family-style work culture.

When Mexican immigrant Jose Angel Valdez found himself employed through a series of circumstances at Daurio Auto and Truck in Pueblo, Colorado, at 19 years old, he didn’t realize his pursuit of his American Dream would result in such a purposeful life. Jose and his wife Maxine Valdez acquired their citizenship and built a life for themselves, their children, and grandchildren, inside of the automotive recycling community.

When John Daurio, patriarch of the business, met Jose and hired him on the same day in 1984, he was willing to give this kid a chance, seeing his eagerness to work and despite language barriers. From this, a life-long friendship developed, based on mutual loyalty and respect, that spanned 39 years until John’s passing on June 20, 2022. Jose’s unparalleled work ethic, and his dedication to John and the business, is something special to note.

This is a life that Jose, now 61, is extremely grateful to have found as an employee of Daurios, and in his current role as the facility’s Operations Manager. He is the longest serving employee in the company.

Automotive Recycling magazine caught up with Jose Angel Valdez and Nick Daurio, now owner of Daurio Auto and Truck, with his brother Mike Daurio and son Greg Daurio, to share this inspirational story of personal and professional achievement. The duo shared the unexpected benefits that they experienced by John giving someone a chance despite obstacles.

Beginnings of a Team

In 1955, John Daurio started the auto recycling business on Pueblo, Colorado’s east side. After moving the location, a total of three times, in 1971 they settled into their current 8th Street location. Daurio Auto and Truck is now an ARA Certified Automotive Recycler that encompasses 30 acres in four lots, with entire buildings devoted to specific parts – and nothing touching the ground.

But in the beginning, it was a blank slate of empty ground. While times were lean as John built out the infrastructure, around this time a simple deal with Don Ware of Don’s Sportcar, another new business nearby, changed everything. When they each landed insurance contracts, they agreed for Don to take the foreign vehicles and John to take the American ones – a deal still in place today and made on a handshake. This is how John did business.

Over time, the business expanded as professional automotive recyclers. While John was busy building the business, Jose was in Mexico with curiosity about America.

Coming to America

“In 1980, a friend and I came across the border legally from Mexico,” remembers Jose. “We didn’t know anything, you know. We just came across for two or three weeks to work a little bit here and there. I started working in the fields, farming vegetables. We first came to see what the U.S. is like; we were not planning on staying here. Three months later, he went back to Mexico, and I ended up here. My idea was to get a better life for me and my family in Mexico.”

The priority was to get steady work, but Jose ran into obstacles. “When I look back, nobody wanted to hire me because I was so young. I was a kid. I knew little English. But I needed a job to get my green card. So finally, after a few years of field work, a man named Thomas hired me and helped me to get my green card. He helped me a lot,” says Jose. As a result, several years later Jose was able to apply for his U.S. citizenship.

During the green card process, the applicant must return to their home country. When Jose came back from Mexico after receiving his, the only jobs available were day laborer jobs. Living in a poorer subdivision in Pueblo, there seemed to be no way out of this situation.

Fortunately, Jose met his wife while in the U.S. and they made plans to build their future here. His wife had begun working at a restaurant (and she still works there today, 40 years later, for the now second-generation owners). The couple had their first daughter, and Jose decided to think outside the box to secure a better work situation for himself.

“One day, I was walking in a neighborhood thinking about what to do, and I saw a house and thought maybe I could do some work there,” says Jose. “I rang the doorbell, and this lady came out. She didn’t know Spanish, but she asked me what I needed. So, I told her that I was looking for steady work and I was reliable. She asked me to wait one minute and went back to the house. A man came out, Mr. John Mendoza, and he knew some Spanish. I told him about my situation. So, he hired me.”

Jose worked for Mr. Mendoza for about three months doing projects around his house. Impressed with his work ethic, when he didn’t have any more work for Jose, he said, “I want to take you to meet one of my best friends and I know he will hire you right then.” So, he introduced me to Mr. John Daurio, and his family.

Based on the referral, John hired him to do some maintenance. “I’ve now been working for Daurio Auto and Truck since April 19, 1984 – for 39 years. I didn’t know anything about auto recycling. As the days go by, you know, I learned. Every day, I am thankful for the way they treat me and my family,” says Jose.

“The first job when I start working for John, he had me working on transmissions,” Jose laughs. “But, before I did any work the first day, he took me to lunch. John said, ‘I’m gonna take you to lunch first, because I am going to work you hard.’’’

Nick Daurio, now owner of Daurio’s, chimes in laughing. “So, that means John gave him a pretty nasty job. We had the school buses where we kept transmissions, at that time everybody was storing parts in buses. It needed organizing and cleaning. It was probably not a good job to start with for Jose, but I think John’s purpose on that was, we’re going to find out what kind of worker he really is.”

“Yes. I wanted to work that same day, too, because I didn’t want him to change his mind,” Jose adds. “John didn’t speak Spanish, so the conversation at lunch was a lot of pointing at things. Over time, we understood each other pretty well and got a sense of each other because we really connected the first day.” Not really knowing how long this job would last, Jose felt this would last a long time based on the connection he had with John his first day.

A Job Well Done, Always

Jose started in a janitorial position. Besides cleaning out the bus, anything else that needed done for cleanup, he did. The more the facility started shining, the more work Jose took on. He learned how to speak English a little bit at a time. So those first couple years, Jose mainly worked on projects, whether it was fixing anything that needed fixing, to building shelving, putting racks in, or helping John build buildings. Later, Jose is proud to have built a washroom where all the facility’s water is completely recycled through a machine.

Eventually, Jose moved into parts inventory, putting them on shelves. He learned all the Hollander numbers and rack locations. “As he went through that process,” Nick notes, “then he started doing deliveries during the day before we had our current full-service delivery system.”

“He continued to improve at inventory, as time progressed,” says Nick. “Yet, if we needed a building painted, lights fixed, remodeling, plumbing – it didn’t matter what we needed to get done for the facility – building fences, gates, and buildings – Jose was involved with John and several others to do building projects. In the time Jose has been working here, he has continually worked his way up the ladder. He has done every job at the facility, except sales, and can operate all the equipment we have on site.”

“He is there if a delivery driver is needed or if cars need to be torn down,” says Nick, “especially during COVID when everybody was short on help. He’s even operated our tow truck a time or two when we needed him or had to clean up a big accident scene. Whatever he does, it is always right the first time, with little if any oversight. And it is done with pride.”

His pride and work ethic are apparent. Jose shows up to work every day with a clean uniform, and he is always prepared for any type of situation or weather if working outside. “In his 39 years, other than vacations, Jose has never called in sick one time, according to the company’s yearly attendance records,” notes Nick.

Now as Daurio Auto and Truck’s Operations Manager, Jose manages all facility projects and needs. “If there is a facility problem or improvement to be made, Jose is our go-to person that makes it happen,” says Nick.

He also lends a hand mentoring employees and keeping the well-documented procedures and processes adhered to. “I feel good to help others, to teach them what I learned from the company and to have pride in their work,” says Jose.

“He’s been a great mentor to the people that work here,” says Nick. “He’s been here the longest. They all have a tremendous amount of respect for him. And they know that whatever he is training them to do, that’s the way it needs to be done for them to perform their jobs. In our desired culture, it should be done right the first time.”

“As an employee, if he sees something that isn’t being done correctly, he will take the time to educate the person on the correct way, in a positive manner. If it still isn’t corrected by the individual, at that point in time we will have a bigger conversation. He’s setting a great example for our team and helps us to uphold the professional standards we have in place for our facility.”

Parallel Friendship Emerges

In Jose’s workday, he usually was working side by side with John who directed the projects. Over time, it created an unusual friendship that became quite remarkable. “John and Jose worked closely together every day, and their bond just kept getting stronger over time – and not only in our family, but in his family, as well,” says Nick.  

“The relationship that formed over this timeframe was not only a new employer to an employee, but it turned into a best friend and a father-son relationship,” Nick shares. “John and Jose basically became best buddies. They would even do activities on weekends together, like go out to dinner with their wives.”

“The bond that he’s basically started with my dad years ago, has continued with my brother, Mike, and I, and now my son, Greg,” he continues. “So as the generations have changed through the years in the leadership here, he’s followed that because I feel that my brother and I, along with my son, show him the same respect that John did. That mutual loyalty has transferred from down from one generation to the next.”

When asked if John and Jose ever disagreed, Nick says to Jose, “Like when John would tell you to do something, and you would disagree. And then you’d mentioned it to him. Then it wouldn’t go right. And then you’d say I told you so, John.”

“Yeah. Sometimes John would want me to do certain things his way, you know,” laughs Jose. “I used to tell him, ‘Well, I think this way looks better.’ Insisting on his way, he would say, ‘whenever you get done come and get me, I want to see how it looks.’ So, I would get it done and go get him. He looks and says, ‘You know what? I think you were right. Do it your way.’ So, I must start over. … That was fun, I enjoyed that.”

Making the Most of America

Jose originally came to America to benefit his family in Mexico, mostly his mother who still resides in Zacatecas, Mexico. “I still send her a monthly check, to help her out. That was one of the reasons that I came to the U.S., to help her and I still do it. We applied for her resident green card 20 years ago, so she can come in and out to the U.S. anytime she wants to. She’s now 78.” Jose is the oldest of his siblings that include four sisters. Three live in Mexico and one in Texas.

In America, at 19, just after starting work at Daurio’s, he and his wife Maxine bought their first house. Around 15 years later, it was paid off. Originally, it was a single level house, but he dug out the basement by hand with pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow over 11 months, and also added a two-car garage in the backyard, and a carport.

They raised two daughters in that home, and he was able to save and pay for their schooling. They both were educated through college, debt free. One is a certified nursing assistant and the other is a dental hygienist. The couple now has three grandsons and two granddaughters, and most of the family lives close by.

Being super industrious, he also has a side business. “About seven years ago I started working during on my lunch for about an hour or so, where I will go mow a lawn, rake leaves, or shovel snow in someone’s yard. On weekends I still do work for homeowners.”

“He’s developed a large clientele for that,” says Nick, “I have several friends and customers, that he works for on the side. He’s very responsible on whatever he does. The value of craftmanship that he brings to any of his work is reflected in his success.”

Commenting on his pride over Jose’s accomplishments, Nick says, “Coming from Mexico with nothing, I thought this would be a tremendous story on his achievements as an immigrant, the way he came here properly and responsibly, and how his dedication to excellence has benefited him and his family. I am grateful for the loyalty and honesty that he has shown our family for all these years.”

“As a person, we are proud of how he and his wife have raised two children, educated them through college, and even helped to educate his grandkids that have wanted to go to school,” he says. “He has a great retirement program and is very dedicated to it, along with our other benefits. They go to church most every Saturday night and have their date night together still.”

“My father was very strong-willed, very opinionated,” shares Nick. “But his story was like Jose’s when it comes down to it. He grew up poor, his dad immigrated from Italy. My grandfather’s brother was in the U.S. And at 15, my grandfather wanting to join him could not afford the ship passage here, and so he snuck onto a ship and hid in a barrel for several days until he knew it was too late, and they couldn’t turn back. When getting to Ellis Island, he couldn’t speak English, only Italian. Someone handed him a ticket to Pueblo, CO after being released from Ellis Island quarantine, and he got a job here farming.”

An Unusual Question

The tight bond that Jose and John shared led to yet another unusual instance. John passed away last year on June 20, 2022. “After my father passed,” says Nick, “I asked Jose, ‘Would you possibly be interested in buying my dad’s house and moving into it?’ His reaction was shock, probably … and accomplishment and pride.”

He and his wife talked it over, and on February 18, 2023, they purchased John and Charlene Daurio’s house. “I couldn’t be prouder of him and happier for him,” says Nick. “I know that my dad would be happy, and my mother just loved him, as well. So, we’ve journeyed into that now. I just think it’s a tremendous story, you know, on the success that he has had and the impact that he’s made on our lives – and my mother and father’s life. It is amazing.”

On owning the house, Jose says to Nick, “I thank you guys and you are my family. And I’m really happy to be in the house, and I enjoy it every second. I'm really happy to be there. I am sure John and his wife are happy, too.”

“You know, anything that we’ve ever done with one another, we’ve done it because we loved each other,” shares Nick. “And we cared for one another. And for the recycling business that we’ve been involved in, it’s created a lifelong friendship as well as a valued employee-

employer relationship. That couldn’t have been better. It has made me so proud of how he has succeeded in life.”

“I love what I do here,” says Jose. “It is a dream come true.”

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