A Closer Look E-mail the author

Acme Refining
Jay Gardner • 775-342-2444

Acme Refining got its start in 1973, operating out of a two truck garage in Chicago. Founder Lou Baron was joined by his son, Larry, in 1975, and Lou’s daughter, Iris, came onboard in 1981.

Acme Refining

Fast-forward 36 years, and Acme boasts over 150 trucks, 300 employees and 6,000 industrial scrap accounts. The company has six scrap yards and services a four-state area from South Bend, Indiana to Racine, Wisconsin, all run from the company’s corporate office in Chicago.

Larry Baron has taken over the business from his father, according to Paul Hobbs, the company’s non-ferrous marketing manager. “Larry quadrupled this company,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs has been with Acme for ten years, after a stint at the mercantile exchange. He felt that the exchange was going to be a dead-end job for him, and knew about Acme because of his friendship with the Baron family, and particularly Brett Baron, Larry’s son, who at that time had recently joined the company’s sales staff.

Hobbs said that when he first started with the company, there were only two yards, and “now we surround the city.” He said that he’s seen the change in the scrap industry in Chicago from a “mom and pop” culture, “and now it’s more corporate.”

As part of that corporate culture, Acme became ISO 9000 certified in 2004. “You keep going, or you go under,” Hobbs said. “With our large accounts, you have to be an ISO, you have to follow the trends.”

The company has continued growing. Larry’s daughter, Lindsey, joined the company that same year, and Brett started the company’s demolition division. “Now we’re in the third generation and we’re looking to the future,” Hobbs said.

According to Hobbs, 99 percent of the company’s business is industrial accounts, and while Acme specializes in non-ferrous, “we handle them all,” he said. Besides ferrous and nonferrous scrap, the company also does spent-oil recycling and certified document destruction, including both the shredding of paper documents and the destruction of computer hard drives. And if a customer has paper or cardboard to recycle, Acme can handle that material, as well.

As the non-ferrous marketing manager, Hobbs is in charge of checking the nonferrous markets each day for the most current pricing, which he passes along to the company’s sales team. “We have over 30 sales people,” he said, “anywhere from Rockford to South Bend to Wisconsin.”

To take care of all those customers, there are Acme trucks on the street “twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.” Hobbs said that the philosophy is that the customer comes first, and since many run their production lines 24 hours a day, Acme can service them on the same schedule.

Besides handling recycling for others, Acme does its part for the environment by running its trucks and heavy equipment on biodiesel, which was implemented about three years ago. A tire-recapping program saves about half the tires that would normally have to be replaced each year.

Hobbs explained that besides providing standard scrap handling and storage equipment, Acme can make scrap handling containers to suit the customer’s needs, including leak-proof boxes and special-sized containers for slitting and stamping lines. “There’s not a need that we won’t try to fill,” he said.

When non-ferrous material comes in, it is segregated and hand sorted, “you don’t use magnets and grapples,” Hobbs explained, and then it is packaged and shipped, mostly to domestic mills. Hobbs said that a very small percentage of material is sold for export, “but we use brokers to do that.”

But it’s not all about corporate growth. Hobbs said, “Acme is a great company. It’s family oriented. I get to see my friends every day I come to work.”