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home : most recent : region 1 September 26, 2017


9/5/2017 6:38:00 PM
'It's something different': Merrillville scrap yard owner plants cars to drive business
The owners of Wild Bill's Auto Parts in Merrillville planted cars to attract customers to the family business. (Joe Puchek / Post-Tribune)
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The owners of Wild Bill's Auto Parts in Merrillville planted cars to attract customers to the family business. (Joe Puchek / Post-Tribune)

Becky Jacobs, Post-Tribune

Tim Janowsky wonders if anyone would believe the cars jutting straight up from the ground at his Merrillville scrap yard fell from an airplane.

"You've got to be wild," Janowsky chuckled, as he pointed at the Wild Bill's Auto Parts sign above him Tuesday in Merrillville.

Janowsky, 69, and his son, William Janowsky, 38, took over the family business about a month ago after a relative's death. A new management sign hangs on the fence out front near the tree-lined gravel road entrance.

The two have been trying to figure out how to drive in more customers to their 18-or-so acres of roughly 300 cars. William Janowsky said he had a "crazy thought" to "get attention," and Tim Janowsky told him to "go for it."

A couple of weeks ago, William Janowsky got out his tractor and dug two holes. He picked out a couple of scrap cars, removing the engines and hoods. Then he said he moved the cars to the holes, lined them up and "in she went." The project took a couple of hours by himself, he said.

On display to the cars rushing by on U.S. 30 stand a black Lincoln Continental and red Grand Marquis with missing doors and cracked windshields. The front ends of the cars are secured in the dirt, sending the trunks straight up in the air. Strings of multicolored flags link the standing cars together.

"It's something different, something to catch somebody's eyes," William Janowsky said, looking at his creation Tuesday morning.

People have stopped in to ask about the display, he said, and some people pull over to the side of the road to take pictures. 

Eventually, William Janowsky said he'd like to plant more cars and paint the name of their business on the roofs.

"It's kind of neat. It is. It's different," said Tim Janowsky.

When it comes to thinking outside of the box, Tim Janowsky said he thinks his son "takes after his grandfather."

Tim Janowsky said his father, also named William Janowsky, started Wild Bill's in the 1930s. His father earned his reputation and nickname making wild bids at auctions to accumulate more cars for the yard, he said.

The current William Janowsky said he doesn't remember much about his late grandfather, who died in the 1980s. He has a couple of memories of playing catch with a ball up and down a flight of stairs, he said, but stories from his relatives have filled in the rest.

With Tim and William Janowsky now in charge, Wild Bill's is in its fourth generation. The two wore matching blue hats on Tuesday as they went in and out of their main office, Tim Janowsky wearing his backward, with Wild Bill's stitched in golden thread on the front.

Before taking over the scrap yard, the two worked with Peggy Janowsky, Tim's wife and William's mother, at the family's other business, Geno's Vending and Amusements in Merrillville. There, they fix and maintain vending and gaming machines, basically "anything you can put a quarter into," said Peggy Janowsky, 63.

At Wild Bill's, customers come to their yard for "anything that relates to automobiles," William Janowsky said, whether it's for a window or a doorknob or some other part.

The father and son have lots of plans — and work — ahead of them, trying to build up their business, but it's based on passion they share.

"We've always been into playing with cars," said William Janowsky.

Tim Janowsky has his prized orange 1970 Plymouth Superbird, with a Road Runner decal on it, while his son said he prefers muscle cars and Mustangs.

At the yard, cars are scattered across a grassy field, some missing parts or doors. William Janowsky said they have been busy getting things in order. But what he likes working at the yard is the chance to "turn nothing into something," he said. By fiddling with cars, he can "turn somebody's junk into treasure" that they would "be proud to drive."

"It's a lot of work," Tim Janowsky said, "but we're having fun."

Copyright 2017, Chicago Tribune






Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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