Salvage yard owner: We’re getting a bad rap
Ryan Martin said B&W Auto & Truck Parts – the salvage yard business he has assumed ownership of after the passing of his grandfather, Edward “Pee Wee” Willing – is getting a bad rap.
“I think there’s a stigma that we just buy trucks and pile them alongside the road, and that’s certainly not the case,” Martin said. “It’s just the nature of the business. We buy large pieces of equipment, and we try to fit them on our property as best as possible.”
The salvage yard takes up about 18 acres on either side of the highway and has a combination of vehicles; some sold as is and some sold for parts.
Aiken County took steps over the past decade to conceal the salvage yard. Attempts included planting and maintaining cypress trees at the edge of the south side of the right-of-way in the early 2000s, and a 2009 proposal for the City and County to erect a fence in front of the salvage yard.
Both attempts failed.
Martin said he is looking to make it more presentable because he wants to maintain a strong, successful business.
“Our customers love us, and I think that’s what any business wants,” he said. “I know my grandpa handled it in a different way. I’ll hold my ground, too, when I think it’s necessary, but we’re not here to acquire enemies.”
County Administrator Clay Killian said last week that the County has not taken action due to a court order signed 28 years ago, in 1986, that allowed Willing to “temporarily” store cars on the property.
County Councilman Scott Singer disagreed, saying there are several steps that can be taken. He said the County could seek out a new judge to review the court order, which he says violates state law, and get it removed.
He added another step would be contacting law enforcement and having the vehicles towed.
A final step, Singer said, would be erecting a property fence in collaboration with the City. He added an issue in the past has been lack of support from the City.
“There are things that could be done, but there doesn’t appear to be a will on the side of the City, and that’s unfortunate,” Singer said. “We pride ourselves on Aiken being an All-America City, and that road is a major pathway into the city.”
Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said, to his knowledge, Singer has not recently approached the City; however, he is willing to work on the issue if the state gets involved, as well.
“I think the state is in control of that road, and if they wanted to, they could make him move it. But something needs to be done, and the City can’t do anything on its own,” Cavanaugh said.
In response to Singer’s comments, Killian said he hopes everyone can find a solution that works for everyone.
“Should Council ask us to explore options, we will certainly do all we can to implement the direction they provide,” he said.
Martin added that despite what people say about the business, his grandfather actually gave the County the land to expand the highway. That act, he said, is proof that his family and business is a giving one and has never been one to look for problems.
“We help out farmers and other local businesses, and it just seems like that gets swept under the rug,” Martin said. “We want to continue running a successful business, and any action we take is because of that.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.