Andrew MacDonald, left, is in training to take over the family business, Maritime Auto Parts in Glenholme, from parents Alana and Ed. The couple have owned the auto recycling operation for 25 years. HARRY SULLIVAN TRURO DAILY NEWS
GLENHOLME - Ed MacDonald wasn't sure what to think a couple of years ago when his only son broached the idea of one day taking over the family business.
As the owner of Maritime Auto Parts in Glenholme, along with his wife Alana, MacDonald figured his son Andrew, a mechanical engineer, would be taking a major step down to leave his job at Toyota in Ontario to get into the auto recycling business.
"Our basic philosophy," he said, of his thoughts at the time, "is son, you are just far too beyond us. You know, we're just this kind of thing. And you're up there doing things worldwide and this and that and the other thing. And he said: 'No, I'm serious.' And we said 'you're basically crazy.' And then he sort of caught me cold. He said: 'So what did you do, Dad?"
And that was sort of when the hammer struck home.
MacDonald, originally from Cape Breton and his wife, who came from Stewiacke, were both employed with the federal government in Ottawa during the mid 1980s when they came to Nova Scotia for a vacation.
But the trip east also had another motive, given that MacDonald had heard through friends in Ontario, who were in the automotive recycling business, that Maritime Auto Parts was on the market.
Being environmentally conscious and having earlier become "hooked" on the concept of automotive recycling, MacDonald decided to check it out.
"The sheer fact of, I suppose the little bit of Scottish in me, that says, you know the idea of somebody getting the same part as new at about half the price and it works just as well, seems to me, that fascinated me, because I absolutely hated the thought of paying full price for something that could, you know (be bought for less) ...
"That was one of the real hooks, that I couldn't believe there was opportunity here," he said.
"It's not my background but I was really quite captivated by it ...
"So I came down in my summer shorts and paisley shirt and said, 'you know, I hear you're interested in selling'. And he asked me what I did and I said I was a human resource specialist with the federal government. And he said I was out of my goldarned mind and told me to get lost."
Not one to be dissuaded easily, MacDonald came back the next summer and tried again.
"So he said basically, 'I'll take your money' and we did a handshake ... (and the sale progressed from there.)
That was 25 years ago.
Maritime Auto Parts itself, however, has been in operation for 80 years, a fact celebrated on Friday with an open house and various festivities.
The operation, which now has 20 employees, has pretty much doubled since the MacDonalds took it over and like other auto recycling businesses, has become completely computerized and automated.
At age 62, MacDonald still works tirelessly and has certainly not grown tired of his business.
"Yippee," he said, in describing the way he still feels about coming into work each day. "Well, it depends," he added with a chuckle, "on what you did the night before."
Despite his own love for the business, when son Andrew (the couple also have two daughters) asked about taking things over, there were definite reservations, despite the reminder that both parents had left high-profile jobs to do the same thing.
"That set me back a bit but I still felt fully cognizant of how generational transfers, if one can say, reduces the ability to be entrepreneurial and grow and develop and be aggressive. And I was very afraid of that and very concerned about that kind of thing."
After being convinced of his seriousness, however, the MacDonalds employed a risk management company to interview their son from a completely objective vantage point.
"But it was his passion. It was the same silly passion that I had that they saw," MacDonald said. "The heart in the business, the heart and the desire."
Six weeks ago, the younger MacDonald joined the staff at Maritime Auto and is working toward taking it over within the next year or so.
And like his father Andrew is quite happy to leave his Upper Canadian life behind to return to Nova Scotia roots.
"I guess on paper it looks more exciting," he said, of his duties at Toyota and Lexus.
"But really, in the day to day, here is a lot more exciting."
And not just because this is where his family and friends are.
"The pace of life is a lot nicer but also just the auto recycling business is kind of where I grew up and I know it and I guess it's doing your own thing. The work you put in I guess is more tangible and the operation is more tangible and you get to see the fruits of your labour a little bit more. It's a lot more rewarding I guess."
1932 - Maritime Auto Parts was started by Ray Fillmore in Lower Truro on the site now occupied by Frenchy's used clothing.
1955 - Ray was joined in the business by son Ronnie.
1963 (approximately) - Maritime Auto Parts was moved to Glenholme to make way for the construction of Highway 102.
About 1971 or '72 - The business was purchased by Basil MacKay and Harry Marsh.
1987 - Maritime Auto was purchased by Ed and Alana MacDonald.