Dan and Janet Rush grew up on the south side of Chicago where junkyards were as much a part of the scenery as saguaros in the Arizona desert. They’re not called junkyards anymore. Well, maybe in Chicago they are, but not in the East Valley where they’re known as “auto recycling centers.”
“We sometimes call them junkyards, but only when talking with older folks who know exactly what we mean. Its something of a joke,” said Dan Rush.
“We have a junkyard dog,” Janet Rush quickly adds.
Their “junkyard dog” is a miniature collie named “Sam,” who guards their home and his doggie dish and keeps his paws away from any yard filled with junk.
The Rushes occasionally return to their old neighborhoods in Chicago to visit relatives and friends, but they spend nearly all of their spare time operating their familyowned business in the Valley that is steadily growing — and will probably expand even more during the coming years.
It all started about 15 years ago when the couple was asked by a longtime friend and elderly Valley resident, formerly of Chicago, to move from Florida to the Valley to help him deal with a health problem.
“He was like my grandfather,” recalled Dan Rush, a foster child. “We had only lived in Florida for a few years, so we decided to join him.”
The friend loaned the Rushes $150,000, which they used to purchase less than one acre of land that was being used as an auto wreckage in Phoenix.
Their friend subsequently died.
Dan Rush, who worked as a tow truck driver in Chicago and Florida, and his wife, who was employed in the food and beverage business in the Windy City, started their new venture.
At the time, they had about 50 wrecked cars in the lot which they renamed Chi-Town Auto Wrecking at 2935 W. Broadway, Phoenix.
Today, they process more than 800 vehicles each month at their expanded Chi-Town Auto Wrecking as well as several other locations in the Valley, including in Mesa, Tempe and Chandler.
They own a total of 60 acres in the Valley and expect to add many more in the next five years.
Their gross revenue for 2006 is expected to hit more than $22 million.
“At first, we were having a tough time paying our bills, so we started a side business — selling hot dogs from a portable cart,” said Janet Rush.
They named their hotdog venture, “Junk Yard Dogs,” and earned an average of $40 each day . The company lasted for about four months, enough to pay their bills and let them focus on expanding their wrecked auto business.
By 1993, they expanded and purchased several lots, where they established auto recycling centers.
“We follow the life of a car from beginning to end,” answered Janet Rush. She and her husband were honored as Overall Small Business of the Year by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
“It can start from towing a vehicle to a recycling yard to selling the vehicle’s parts to customers either at the yard or on the Internet to recycling the entire vehicle and taking it away.”
They recently purchased Cactus Towing Company, one of the oldest towing and larger firms in the Valley, which brings to 27 the number of tow trucks they operate for both private (hotels, shopping centers) and public agencies (Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix).
Their Internet company, Rush Auto Recycler, will find parts for buyers and ship them to customers throughout the country. They have a similar service for Truck and Van parts called, appropriately, Just Truck and Van, where customers can look for parts on-line.
Customers who are handy with tools can remove parts themselves from vehicles at Pull A Part in Phoenix and Pick A Part at 120 S. Extension Road, Mesa.
“We work well together,” said Dan Rush, referring to his wife and business partner. “We’re always ready to support each other.”
“We love what we’re doing,” said Janet Rush, who was awarded the Mother of the Year Award in 1996 by the Entrepreneurial Mothers Association.
“The Valley is growing and our business is a growing market,” answered Dan Rush.
“We’re also in a computeroriented age where our customers are looking for parts on the Internet and they’re doing less, backyard mechanics,” said Janet Rush. “The demand for recycled, used parts is steadily growing.”
Dan Rush is vice president of the Arizona Automobile Recycling Association, which lists companies and parts on its Web site at www.aara.com.
Dan and Janet Rush
Age: 46 and 40
Family: Children: Jacob, 15, Scarlet, 9 and Lydia, 5
Resides in: Phoenix
Business: Founders and owners of Rush Auto Recyclers, East Valley Auto Recyclers, Chi-Town Auto Wrecking, Just Truck & Van and Cactus Towing and several other auto parts and auto wreckage yards
Key achievement: In 1991, started a small auto wreckage yard in Phoenix with an initial investment of $150,000 and three employees. Today, owns and operates several recycling auto parts and wreckage yards
Success philosophy: Surround yourself with good employees — Dan Rush. Get rid of the stigma associated with junkyards and replace it with the vision of auto recycling — Janet Rush
Information: (602) -243-6002 or www.rushautorecyclers.com