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Poised and ready: Shine Bros. Corp. prepares for a world of opportunity from its company's home in Spencer, Iowa.

In what could be a score from a Western movie, the origins of Shine Bros. Corp. trace back to a couple of strangers emerging onto a train station platform in a small railroad town.

In this case, the strangers were not gunslingers, but budding entrepreneurs Sam and Harry Shine, who left Chicago in 1902 and purchased tickets to the destination that was as far west as they could afford.

That destination turned out to be Spencer, Iowa, in the northwestern corner of the Hawkeye State, where Sam and Harry started a business that is still thriving today as a metals recycling company with a global reach.

HIGH NOON. Upon disembarking at the train station, no gunfight awaited Sam and Harry Shine. The fight they faced, instead, was how to make a living in a sparsely settled corner of Iowa.

Spencer is tucked beneath Minnesota and less than 100 miles from South Dakota, which at that time had been a state for fewer than 15 years and was still referred to by many as Dakota Territory.

Without any land to farm or to use for ranching, the brothers traveled from farmhouse to farmhouse and opened a shop on Grand Avenue in Spencer to buy, sell and trade hides, furs, feathers, pots and pans, wool and scrap metal.

The business endured for several decades under Sam and Harry's leadership as Spencer and the surrounding area grew around it. Harry's son Ben returned from World War 11 service and purchased the business from his father and uncle. He also bought a 38-acre site in Spencer in 1948 that still serves as the location for Shine Bros. Corp.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Shine Bros. Corp. continued to trade in wool and hides, although scrap metal gained prominence as the most important part of the business. Ben's son Toby joined Shine Bros. full time in 1960 and helped fill several roles as the company phased out its hides trading operations in the 1960s and its wool business in the 1970s, in favor of concentrating on scrap metals.

Toby Shine now serves as president of Shine Bros Corp. Although he has now been president for nearly 25 years, he still looks back fondly on the long apprenticeship he served under his father Ben, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 90.

Toby notes that one of his brothers became an attorney and another a college professor, but he had few doubts about what he wanted to do. "I knew as a little kid what I wanted to do--even if picking up nails in the driveway was my starting point in the scrap business."

Like many second or third-generation scrap family members, Toby happily learned file business from the ground up. "My father was not only my mentor, but also my best friend," says Toby. "We had a wonderful opportunity to work together and spend time with each other. He retired at age 70, but kept working without a paycheck until age 90."

A fourth-generation family member is currently learning the business, as Toby's daughter Keven is working as a human resources officer with the firm. Mark Rabinowitz, a metals buyer for the company, is Toby's nephew.

Beyond family members, Toby says he has been fortunate to hire key personnel such as General Manager Dan Wycoff and engage in a feeder-yard and materials marketing partnership with the Bernstein family from Sioux City Compressed Steel of Sioux City, Iowa. (Dan's son Mike is another buyer for the firm.)

Toby and Dan praise the overall work ethic of the people of Spencer and northwest Iowa. "We don't think there is a better workforce anywhere in the world," declares Toby. "The Midwest work ethic is second to none," he adds.

"Our most important asset is our people," says Toby, who notes that the company or its partnership facilities (known as TJN Enterprises) have a half-dozen father-son combinations working with them. "Some employees have been here for more than 30 years."

Toby and Dan say they cultivate a positive work environment that retains and motivates good employees. "We had a truck driver bringing in material here yesterday for the first time who said he'd never seen a place where people were so happy to work," says Dan.

CHOP SHOP, For an enthusiastic work force to stay that way, the leaders of Shine Bros. Corp. have had to make the right decisions to keep material flowing into their 38-acre facility.

One of the most critical moves in this respect was made in the 1980s, according to Toby. "We had always liked the nonferrous business, and in about 1980 we started a small wire chopping operation," he recalls. "That operation grew, so we added another line and then a third one. Over the years we have grown to handle a significant amount of copper and aluminum wire and cable."

The wire chopping operations hit a bump in the early part of this decade, as intense buying from brokers shipping unprocessed wire and cable to China greatly hindered operations in Spencer.

Although a temptation may exist to purchase material at a higher cost to keep production lines active, the company knew to keep margins in mind. "We've always been of the philosophy that if we don't have a margin, we don't want the material," Toby remarks.

"The last couple of years were very difficult," says Toby, while also noting that the past few months have seen a dramatic reduction in buying from Chinese brokers and the return of more wire and table to Spencer. "We're loaded with material and we're very happy. It could change tomorrow if Chinese buyers came in the way they did a year ago."

The company seeks material from dealers and generators from throughout North America. "Our basic feed is from other dealers, although we do a little wire mill business," remarks Toby. "We reach every coast and into both Canada and Mexico. It's a function of freight and price, of course."

On the operations side, the company uses a Fuchs scrap handler to feed wire and cable into pre-processors made in France by MTB Recycling. Toby says his wire pre-processing and granulating equipment made by MTB produces clean, impressive copper and aluminum chops and has earned his loyalty. He also compliments wire chopping equipment made by Triple S Dynamics, saying, "They've done a great job for us."

The company's newest chopping line is designed especially to handle jelly-filled cable. "At a lot of places, handling greased wire is messy and disruptive. Not here," says Dan. "The specialized line is something we have here that not many other people have."

SPLIT DECISION, With its strength in wire chopping, Shine Bros. Corp. has evolved as a scrap recycler with an emphasis on nonferrous metals. By no means has it ignored the ferrous marker, however, as it both possesses its own ferrous processing equipment and has also forged a strategic partnership with another company that concentrates on ferrous scrap.

Toby Shine and Jack and Norman Bernstein formed a joint venture in the 1990s known as TJN Enterprises, with the name drawn from the initials of each man's first name.

There are four TJN locations, with two yards in South Dakota and one each in Minnesota and Iowa. Both Shine Bros. Corp. and Sioux City Compressed Steel benefit from the partnership by using the TIN locations as feeder yards, providing them with more material to keep their processing equipment and personnel busy and to fill orders for brokers and consumers.

The Spencer location is not devoid of ferrous scrap, however, and the partnership is not preventing Shine Bros. Corp. from making a major new investment in Spencer--the addition of a 2,500 hp 80/ 104 auto shredder manufactured by The Shredder Co. of Canutillo, Texas.

Unlike many such large shredders, the unit at Shine Bros. will probably handle more aluminum cast and sheet breakings, rather than ferrous-intensive automobiles and appliances.

BE PREPARED. Toby Shine credits his father Ben for alerting him to be ready for change and to always listen.

"Everything changes if you wait if out," says Toby. "Markets change and conditions change; it's a matter of time."

The lesson, then, is hot to wait passively but to prepare for changes and to listen carefully to advice and knowledge that can be passed on by other people.

"If you don't have the time or the patience to listen to the advice of people around you, you won't succeed in this business," says Toby. "Everybody who works with you has ideas. You're not working with people if you're not listening to them."


PRINCIPALS: Toby Shine, dent; Dan Wycoff, General Manager; Mark Rabinowitz, Buyer

LOCATIONS: Spencer, Iowa; TJN Enterprises joint venture has locations in Estherville, Iowa; Worthington, Minn.; Sioux City and Watertown, S.D.

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 80 at Shine Bros. in Spencer; TJN locations have separate workforce

PROCESSING EQUIPMENT: Three wire chopping lines with MTB Recycling and Triple S Dynamics equipment; greased wire line with Eldan equipment; Vezzani shear; Al-jon balers and loggers; additional balers and briquetters; Shredder Co. 80/104 shredding plant with downstream SGM Magnetics separating system (online later in 2004)

SERVICES PROVIDED: Wire chopping; off-site processing of auto hulks, tin, wire and other scrap materials; baling and briquetting of nonferrous scrap; baling and logging of obsolete ferrous scrap; shredding of nonferrous and ferrous scrap (later in 2004)


An outsider's view of Iowa usually begins with agriculture, and the northwestern corners of the state where Shine Bros. Co. and the city of Spencer are situated is indeed home to much farmland.

The farms and agri-businesses of western Iowa yield obsolete farm equipment and bulk storage silos and cribs that provide scrap for Shine Bros.

Additionally, though, the region is home to a number of manufacturing plants, according to Shine Bros. Co. President Toby Shine. "We don't have a large GM or GE plant here, but this part of the country has a lot of small manufacturers we can serve," he remarks.

On the consuming side, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is home a major PMX brass mill that serves as a destination for the copper wire chops processed by Shine Bros. A Nucor electric are furnace mill in Norfolk, Neb., is one of several regional ferrous scrap destinations.

Beyond agriculture and industry, nearby Lake Okoboji brings tourists (boaters, water skiers and jet skiers in particular) to the Spencer area each summer. "It's a glacial lake with clear blue water--it's just gorgeous," says Toby.

Spencer also serves as the banking and retail center within roughly a 100-mile radius according to Toby. Even though it is a trade hub, it is still small enough to qualify as a small town, he says.

"It's a friendly town where you walk down the street and people are likely to say 'Good morning' to you," says Toby.

The author is editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at
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Author:Taylor, Brian
Publication:Recycling Today
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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