Ed Plazek has always aimed higher

By Steve Fletcher

Ed Plazek bought his first vehicle while in high school and his original plan was to fix it and drive it. A guy came along and asked, “what do you want for the fenders off that thing?” Ed said, “I don’t know… how’s $20?” The fellow gave him $20 and said, “have them off tomorrow.” Plazek Auto Wreckers was born, and Ed started his lifelong passion of selling auto parts.

In 1965, Ed and Marilyn Plazek opened Plazek Motors as a used car lot. Later that year they obtained a wrecking yard licence and updated the name to Plazek Motors and Auto Wreckers. They worked the business part time until 1968 at which time they dedicated themselves full-time and started to hire their first employees. The business began on a parcel of land severed off the family farm. Ten acres was the size then, and has grown to 75 acres holding 6,000 vehicles. As the company grew the employee numbers peaked at 55 while buildings expanded to 25,000 square feet Family has always been important at Plazek’s. The company is still owned by the founders—Ed and Marilyn, and seven family members are still involved in the day to day business.

Plazek’s has also always been involved in associations, first the Canadian Auto Recyclers (CAR) hotline group, then the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) in the USA, where Valerie Maclen (Plazek) served as a Regional Director for Eastern Canada. They were one of the founding Members of the Ontario Auto Recyclers Association (OARA) and today grandson Marc sits on the OARA Board of Directors.

“We always had the biggest attendance of employees at conventions in Ontario,” said Ed Plazek. “The employees felt part of the growth of the Company. I think the biggest lesson we learned over the years was listen to the people doing the job. They are your best advice on making the process better.” Ed and Marilyn have also been heavily involved in supporting local area sports teams—baseball, broomball and hockey teams in the local area. Giving back to a community that supported their business over the years is a reoccurring theme.

In 2000, Plazek’s sold to Ford when they tried to enter the auto recycling industry with their GreenLeaf Division. Plazek’s bought the company back in 2003 when Ford decided to exit the industry, “We learned a lot from the sale. Some good practices, and some we never ever wanted to entertain again,” said Joe Plazek.

As Ed Plazek reflects on 58 years in the auto recycling business he adds, “This business has had its ups and downs and many changes over the years. One thing has been consistent, it’s always testing you to do better.”

From the archives: the Plazek team dons blue jeans for a team photo.
Above, Note the ‘Driven by Ed Plazek’ on the driver’s door.

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