Recycler to Watch: Long-Term Success

Jan 1, 2024 | Interview

Novak Auto Parts has recently earned the 2023 CAR Award, acknowledging the company’s commitment to our evolving industry.

By Maura Keller

All photos: Mark J Media

Cirba Solutions

Sitting on 20 acres in Western Pennsylvania in the town of New Brighton, Novak Auto Parts has been servicing the Tri-State area of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia for almost 60 years as a full-service automotive recycler.

Located in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, the 15 employees at Novak Auto Parts received the CAR Award in 2023.

With second and third generations working side by side, Novak Auto Parts personifies a home-grown, family-run business that has improved to become a Certified Auto Recycler with Recall Certification, and was named the Star Award Winner for 2023.

Novak Auto Parts services domestic and foreign makes and models of all types. The company is active in the PARTS affiliate chapter in Pennsylvania and is focused on doing things the right way. Automotive Recycling connected with the Novak family to learn more about their operations and their overall business acumen that has led to their success.

Automotive Recycling: When was your business opened/started? And how did the family discover automotive recycling? Can you share some information about the early days? How did you grow the business?

Novak: Novak Auto Parts was opened in 1958 by Roger’s mom and dad on property at their home. In 1971, they moved Novak Auto Parts a few miles away to its current location on 20 acres. Roger’s dad wrecked a car and it was at his house in his yard. A gentleman stopped and asked to buy a part off of it. That gave Joe the idea of starting a business and this was the beginning of Novak Auto Parts.

His dad worked a full-time job, but on the side built up the salvage yard. Their family grew and in 1971, he and his wife, Joanne, bought 20 acres and moved the business a few miles away. While all five of their children were involved in the business at one time or another, three sons primarily took interest and became owners. In 1990, Roger, as the youngest of the sons, pushed to computerize the inventory and the business grew quickly. In 1994, we also bought a Columbiana, Ohio location. Roger and Penny again worked together to computerize that inventory as well and update the facility. Once it was running at full capacity, the oldest brother became the owner/operator of that location, running it until he retired a few years ago. Roger became sole owner of Novak Auto Parts, Inc. in 2013 when he bought his middle brother’s shares. Roger and Penny’s children, Casey and Nathan, became integral in all aspects of Novak Auto Parts, Inc. along the way. Roger feels very blessed to have his children join him as third generation auto recyclers. With his first grandchild, Hudson, just born in December, he is hopeful that the fourth generation will follow suit in protecting the environment and serving the community.

AR: Where are you located?

Novak: We have always been located in the heart of New Sewickley Township, approximately 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, PA.

AR: How many employees do you currently have?

Novak: 15

AR: Who are the owners currently?

Novak: Novak Auto Parts is owned by Roger Novak and has been family-owned since it began. His parents started the business and now the second and third generations are working side by side. Roger’s wife, Penny, is the secretary/bookkeeper; their son, Nathan, is the general manager, and their daughter, Casey, is the office manager.

AR: What is your service area and main customer base?

Novak: Novak Auto Parts proudly serves its community and beyond. As an affiliate member of Team PRP, we are connected with other recyclers across the entire United States. While our focus remains on the tri-state area of PA, OH and WV, we ship UPS and freight lines daily. Our specialty includes late model inventory. We have been on the Midwest Road Runner since 2014. When PRP bought that, we were brought on as an affiliate member, as everyone was. It still remains to be seen if that affiliation offers any advantages. Our standard warranty is 90 days, but we do offer extended warranties: six month parts warranty, six month parts & labor warranty, twelve month parts warranty, twelve months parts and labor warranty

AR: How long have you been a member of ARA?

Novak: Not really sure, but at least since 2005. Honestly, it has been so long that we don’t remember the exact circumstances. More than likely, we learned about ARA from WPADRA, the Western association that pre-dates PARTS as the state association for all of Pennsylvania. But our aim has always been to learn how to do things better, whether that translates to new processes, new equipment, new safety training or new legislative updates. So we definitely see great value in ARA, where we can all learn from each other and work for the good of the industry. All of that benefits our employees, our customers and our community.

AR: How many conventions have you attended?

Novak: We’ve attended five conventions.

AR: Why is it important for you to attend ARA and industry conventions/shows?

Novak: Our industry is always changing so it’s extremely important to keep learning. We find that ARA conventions are the best place to learn about new innovations, new processes, regulatory changes, etc. The ARA conventions also create a perfect space for networking with and learning from other auto recyclers.

AR: How does your membership help your business? What specific resources do you use?

Novak: ARA keeps us abreast of what’s going on in our industry with their informative e-mails. And if we have a question, they are always just a phone call away. The resources they provide regarding industry services are very helpful as well. We have developed our own training plans over the years. But we do use ARA University to some extent and appreciate the insight and availability for our employees – for example, Airbag & Explosive Pretensioner Safety and Forklift Operator Safety. But the other resources we appreciate are the vendors that ARA recommends. We are currently in the market for a new credit card processor and we turned to ARA for trusted vendors.

AR: What do you value most about the ARA?

Novak: We appreciate that ARA has a handle on and advocates for auto recycling on a national level. This is something we don’t have the bandwidth for on our own. ARA keeps an eye on the things that matter to us and brings them into focus. Alone we don’t matter much on a federal level. But as a group, we do matter. We all need each other to survive and thrive in this industry. ARA is the glue.

AR: Do you participate by serving or attending state association meetings or committees, or ARA committees? 

Novak: Yes. In the past when Pennsylvania’s associations were regional, Roger served as President of WPADRA as well as various other capacities. Like father, like son. Currently Nathan is chair of PARTS and serves on the Executive Board. He is deeply committed to helping auto recyclers understand and attain the rigorous standards expected of a quality recycler. It’s important to him not only because we have a duty to the environment and our community, but also for the protection of our employees and our businesses.

AR: In your service, what is a highlight of some of your roles that stands out in your mind?

Novak: Nathan worked to put a program into place that allows Pennsylvania auto recyclers to have a free consultation with an environmental firm in order to get their questions answered. Currently he is working to put voluntary environmental audits into place for PARTS members at no cost to them so that they can be assured they are in compliance with all regulations. His view is that you can’t fix a problem that you don’t know you have.

As recyclers we are called to be good stewards of the environment and we take that very seriously. We also believe as a natural extension, we should be a positive influence in our communities. We try to do that in different ways. From supporting local teams, school functions, and community nights to supplying cars for fire departments’ practice, hosting surrounding communities’ police K-9 exercises in our yard, and sniper practices for law enforcement from other states and as far away as Saskatoon, we try to give back to the community. We see this heart for others so much in this industry from small family-run auto recyclers. It truly is a pleasure to be among them as a part of this industry.

AR: What is the reason you decided to get certified?

Novak: We are always striving to do better. Since we know ARA has best management practices and procedures set in place, working toward certification gave us concrete goals to shoot for… a path for success. Attaining those certifications has given us a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, knowing that we are doing our best for our customers, our employees, the industry, and the earth.

AR: What was the process and experience like for you to get certified, or what is your experience to maintain it?

Novak: Over the years the process has changed, but we have found it really helpful to work with a great environmental partner, which in our case is VET Environmental Engineering, LLC. They always give us suggestions on how we can improve. We love to see progress and try our best to implement both ARA and VET’s processes and procedures.

AR: How many certifications do you have?

Novak: CAR – Mid-year, 2012; GOLD SEAL – March, 2023; EV – November, 2023; RECALL – January, 2023.

AR: How has your certification helped you and your team?

Novak: It honestly bonds our team, knowing that we are reaching for professional certifications that add value to our customers’ experience, our employees’ work atmosphere and the quality of our processes.

AR: What would you say to people who are thinking about getting certified, why should they do it?

Novak: We’d reassure them that getting certified is a process and ARA is there to answer all their questions along the way. It may not happen overnight, but these criteria give us a clear path toward progress. Using ARA’s tried and true practices will help their business be the best that it can be.

AR: Tell us what it means to you and your team to win the CAR award. 

Novak: Winning the 2023-2024 Certified Automotive Recycler of the Year award is an incredible honor and very humbling at the same time. Roger became the sole owner of Novak Auto Parts just 10 years ago, and this feels like an amazing acknowledgment of all the hard work and dedication that went into revitalizing and restructuring operations. We couldn’t be prouder of our team or more appreciative of the help from our industry partners. We will use this amazing moment as fuel to keep climbing and improving. Our industry is so important and we’re excited to continue pushing forward for its betterment. 

The Novak family welcomed their first grandchild, Hudson, in December, and are hopeful for a fourth generation of auto recyclers.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Maura Keller is a seasoned writer, editor, and published author, with more than 20 years of experience. She frequently writes for various regional and national publications.

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