Joel Fink, the tall, plain-spoken man who runs Allied Metal Company and its sister operation, Again Auto Parts — both located on an expanse of land at 1300 N. Koster Ave., the size of at least two football fields — was walking the gravel of his newly expanded operation with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) one afternoon last week.
Fink said he employs at least 100 people between the two companies — 50 union workers and 75 workers in total at Allied, with another 30 workers at Again Auto. Fink’s companies also employ workers in Tennessee.
On April 15, the family-owned company held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate a $2 million expansion of its manufacturing footprint that includes five more acres, the addition of a 30,000 square foot warehouse and another 500 cars and trucks added to Again Auto’s inventory.
“The expansion helps Allied Metal Company remain competitive in the global manufacturing business by allowing us more room to grow and keep jobs in the area,” said Fink, who represents third-generation ownership of a company that was founded in 1952.
“Allied Metal Company supplies aluminum and zinc alloys to the die casting and foundry businesses which cast parts for the automotive, appliance, construction and electronics industry,” according to an April 11 statement released by the company. “Again Auto Parts is now Chicago’s largest fully paved and blended full-service, and self-service recycling and used auto parts business.”
Fink told Mitts and Boykin that he employs a number of West Side residents, but that “it’s been a struggle” trying to find reliable workers, particularly people who can endure the company’s weekend shift.
“Some people are employable, but they don’t want to show up every day,” Fink said. “We have jobs and we’re happy to stay in the neighborhood.”
“I’m going to connect you with the county so we can help hire some people,” Boykin said.
“We can also connect him with some local organizations like the Westside Health Authority and Safer Foundation,” added Mitts.
Fink said the car business has been tough over the last few years, perhaps because interest rates “are so low people aren’t fixing their cars.” The industry’s slight slump, however, didn’t prevent him from expanding, he said.
“It can take a lifetime to assemble a piece of land like this,” Fink noted. “If something is next to you, you have to grab it.”
The metal and auto supply companies sit on at least 10 acres of land now. Fink said, before the recent expansion, there was an abandoned, dilapidated building on the lot next to his operation.
“It had these 1920s wood trusses and it was going to fall down and kill somebody, so we got it to the ground as fast as we could,” he said. “We took the western part and made it into warehouse to support Allied and the eastern part is for all the cars.”
The expansion is a welcome development for frequent patrons like West Side resident Jim Beckom, 79, a retired auto parts manufacturing worker whose knack and passion for fixing cars haven’t abated.
“There are things in here that I used to make,” he said, pointing to the acres of gutted cars and trucks, their metal entrails baking in the afternoon sun. “We made the rotors and those crank shafts.”
Beckom said he’s fixed up five antique cars, three of which he’s sold. He still has a 1954 Lincoln and a 1955 Chevy Cameo pickup truck.
“I could come in here and get some stuff, man, and build a car and tomorrow I’d be riding,” he said. “I almost never put a car in the shop.”