A Blast from the Past. Found an article about my Mother and the business from Jan of 1996. Wow have the times changed.

MARSHFIELD, Wis. — There’s nothing like a junkyard to bring out the fortune hunter in a red-blooded male farmer, who might go there for a specific used part but can’t help but linger like a kid in a candy shop. Enthusiasm for scrap steel and other unidentifiable treasures is a trait carried on the “Y” chromosome.

Salvage sisters Theresa Shaw and Jean Shaw-Burkart shred the stereotype just as they do scrap steel. Just like so many young farm girls who grow up as their dads’ right-hand helpers, the Shaw sisters grew up capable and not afraid to dirty their hands in their family’s business: Shaw’s Wrecking Yard LLC south of Marshfield.

Shaw-Burkart joined the family business right out of high school. She can do everything the guys can, from cleaning copper to sorting metals, and to running the crane, car crusher and 500-ton shear. Steel is loaded with a giant grapple into a 20-foot hopper, and then sheared to a specified length for the Waupaca Foundry and other customers.

She said it’s easier being a woman in the scrap-metals business now than it once was, when the first words out of male customers’ mouths were, “Can I talk to the man in charge?” or “Can I talk to someone who knows something about parts?” She recalled a customer who needed a wiper arm for his car. She asked him, “For which side?” He told her “the woman’s side,” so Shaw-Burkart walked around to the driver’s side to feign a closer look at that windshield wiper.

Indeed, it’s rare that a customer looking for a part or piece stumps the sisters. From spare wheels, gears, tines for balers, discs, motors, sheet steel, rebar, culverts, grader blades – you name it – they know what is in demand with farmers and try to keep those items on hand. A good many Amish farmers in central Wisconsin also rely on Shaw’s Wrecking Yard for pipe, I beams, guard rails and more for building projects.

The Wood County junkyard has been in the family 61 years. The women’s parents, the late Elton Shaw and his wife, Cecilia, now 82, started the family business in 1955. Elton Shaw hauled lime; the business began as a small lime-spreader service that also scrapped cars, trucks and equipment in the winter, as well as sold car parts. Through the years it has grown to 40 acres – the largest scrap recycler in central Wisconsin.

“We have third- and even fourth-generation customers,” Shaw-Burkart said. “They may not have known their grandpa, but I did.”

She said she likes pointing to resemblances to those customers, who might share a goofy sense of humor or mannerisms with a prior generation. Indeed, Shaw’s is a place where farmers and other folks linger to shoot the breeze.

Uninterested in the comings and goings at the scrap-yard office counter is Dusty, an 11-year-old cat curled in its countertop cat bed. The Shaw’s Wrecking Yard mascot, the kitty snoozes while customers drop off scrap or pay for a choice item found in the yard. Besides the cat, Shaw’s Wrecking Yard has another trademark – a bottomless bowl of candy for customers to enjoy.

The junkyard is unique in yet another way, softened as it is in the summer by big perfuse displays of flowers – a more feminine touch, thanks to the sisters, to an otherwise predominantly male-frequented enterprise.

Customers are also greeted out front by a menagerie of whimsical rusty statuary, made by retired farm attorney Clyde Wynia of Marshfield, who is the proprietor of Jurustic Park. Wynia is an artist with a hacksaw, blowtorch and welding wand. He frequents the junkyard about twice a week to sleuth scrap for his whacky artwork. Shaw said Wynia knows how much she loves cats; he’s given the business a cat in a birdcage as well as a cat paddling on a pizza, being shoved into a potbelly stove by a deranged frog. Both are proudly displayed in front of the office.

The sisters have been missing their mother’s contribution to the business. Until this past fall, Ma Shaw – as everybody calls her – was doing the books. She’s currently rehabbing after breaking her leg and undergoing hip surgery. Shaw-Burkart said her mother first started working at the junkyard counter as a young mother with four little ones in tow. Today Shaw-Burkart’s daughter, Denise Lindau, lends a hand as the third-generation Shaw-family female in metal recycling.

Also working with the sisters is their brother, Tom Shaw. Their older sister, Joan Boehning, has also worked in the family business. These days she is maintaining the family’s other tradition of farming by raising beef. Shaw’s Wrecking Yard has about a dozen full-time employees.

As in dairy and grain farming at present, prices are soft in the scrap-steel industry and mills are running below capacity. Several years ago business was booming. Farmers were cleaning old shade-tree scrap heaps, selling retired farm equipment and scrap metals at strong prices. Scrap-metal prices are influenced by imports and exports. The past couple of years, China has been dumping new reprocessed steal into the U.S. market for less than what mills here can process scrap steel themselves, according to the family. Besides ups and downs in prices, consolidation in the scrap-recycling industry is a challenge.

Shaw’s Wrecking Yard interfaces with farmers in other ways. The business supplies roll-off container services to farms, picking up big bins of scrap metals when full. They also have low boys, flat beds and payloaders to aid in larger cleaning jobs. They pick up scrap vehicles and farm equipment. And their state-licensed truck scale accommodates everything from fair animals to loads of cattle being sold – even a dead bear somebody wanted to weigh.

The business is involved in the community by providing steel to area welding classes, and strut assemblies to high school shop classes. The family donated the front end of a car for a high school to perform the play “Grease.” And for more than 35 years, they’ve supplied vehicles to area fire departments and emergency response teams to practice emergency response with the Jaws of Life and other rescue equipment.

After so many years working at the junkyard, Shaw-Burkart said her husband teases her that when they go to a farm store and every third man they encounter in the store says hello or smiles at her, “It’s a good thing I know where you work.”

Visit www.shawsllc.com or call 715-676-3621 for more information.