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.
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
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.”