Founded in 1986 by Allen Lindquist, Bow Auto Salvage in Bow, NH began with simply one bay garage and office, and no inventory. Eventually Lindquist purchased a wrecker and starting buying used and junk vehicles throughout town and keeping inventory in a notebook. Fast forward to today where Bow Auto Salvage is a thriving family-owned professional auto recycler focused on the future. We spoke to recycler to watch Chris Lindquist on their business.
As Chris Lindquist, owner and general manager at Bow Auto Salvage, notes, the first inventory system his father Allen bought was Auto Info when he discovered the system at an industry convention. While there, he also met some great people who turned him onto the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), as well as URG and some consulting groups.
“It was his thirst for learning and willingness to try new ideas that helped the business progress throughout the years,” says Chris. Today Allen, along with his wife Sue, and sons Kevin and Chris all are owners of Bow Auto Parts.
Bow Auto Salvage’s humble beginnings are a far cry from the size of the facility now, which includes 20 acres with over 22,000 square feet of warehouse/dismantling space, a separate 4,000 square foot office building and numerous outside rackings. The company also has grown to include 50 employees and processes approximately 3,200 vehicles per year.
“One thing that makes us different than a lot of yards is that we don’t save the bodies,” Lindquist said. “We do a full dismantle and the vehicle gets crushed. All the parts inventoried get racked and shelved.”
Both Chris and Kevin grew up in the business and as young kids they would work after school doing odd jobs such as cleaning and sweeping. Then in the summer, and as they got older, they would do more tasks such as breaking down wheels and tires, throwing out old parts after a shakedown, stocking aftermarket radiators and lamps, etc.
“I worked my way through the different departments such as delivery driver, shipping department and made my way up to sales after I graduated from college. I worked in every department besides dismantling and my brother worked in every department besides sales,” Lindquist said. “One rule that our father had made was that we would each have to go and get a job for at least two years working for someone else and we did. I went and worked for Enterprise Rent A Car in their management program. After six months I was promoted to assistant branch manager and then after another six months I was managing my own store. After my two years with Enterprise, I had learned a lot and I was ready to come back to Bow Auto Salvage.”
So who are Lindquist’s heroes or mentors in the business who directly or indirectly impacted their career?
“My mentor has always been my dad. This business was his baby and I’ve seen all the hard work and dedication he’s put into it right from the beginning. He would attend all the URG conferences, ARA shows, peer groups and soak up as much knowledge as possible and then bring it back to the business,” Lindquist said. “He was never afraid to try anything and that’s what he taught me. In fact there’s been many times where I had an idea and he would let me try it and learn from it even though it was something he already tried and knew it didn’t work. His hard work and determination have rubbed off on me and that’s been my motivation to make sure we stay successful.”
Since its inception, Bow Auto Salvage has undergone a myriad of changes. Lindquist said the most significant change they made was joining PRP-NE nine years ago. At that time, Bow Auto Parts only had nine employees, two delivery trucks and processed about 70 vehicles a month.
“We already had some great relationships with some of the members but relied on getting parts back and forth to each via freight truck which meant two to three days,” Lindquist said. “We were getting pushed by guys like Rob Rainwater to join the group. At the time the hub was in Binghamton, NY so logistically we were right on the border of being legal with the drive time. It was also going to be very costly to get set up. We weighed all the pros and cons, and as a family we decided that we needed to join PRP and it has been the best decision we have ever made. We now have 50 employees, eight delivery trucks, one tractor trailer and process over 3,200 vehicles a year.”
Today’s economic conditions have been challenging for many automotive recyclers. So what advice can Lindquist others within the industry who are eager to experience similar growth as Bow Auto Parts?
“Don’t stop buying vehicles no matter how difficult it becomes,” Lindquist said. Find a way to hit your buying goal. You can’t sell what you don’t have. This month’s buying is going to affect your sales for the next three months. The second most important piece of advice is stay up on your pricing. We look at and update our prices on every ‘in stock’ part every 90 to 100 days. This doesn’t mean you have to change them, but look at them. Don’t miss that window of opportunity.”
At Bow Auto Salvage, quality is their number one goal and they are most proud of being awarded PRP’S Northeast Region’s Team Excellence Award for Highest Quality for the last three years in a row. As Lindquist explained, it’s something that the company strives for and it’s rewarding to be recognized for it.
“It means a lot for our employees to see that their hard work is being recognized. We also would have to give credit to our partners for always pushing us,” Lindquist said. “They are truly the greatest trading partners and what I would call friends.”
From the very beginning Allen Lindquist’s mission has been to run a clean facility. “I always say he was ‘clean and green’ before being ‘clean and green’ was a thing,” Lindquist said. “It’s been our family’s mission to be different from what the rest of the world perceives in this industry. Quality has always been our number one goal and is a major reason why customers love us. To succeed in this industry, the next generation of auto recyclers need to stay ahead of the game. This industry is constantly changing. Be ready to adapt. Always stay hungry and play well with others.”