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Raimo Grows From Rags to Riches in the Scrap Industry

Mon November 03, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Kate A. Griffith

The Raimo family understands the old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

When Frank Raimo realized that things would be a lot more productive around his scrap yard if his excavator had a longer reach, he fabricated a third stick to add to the boom. Instead of waiting for manufacturers to build what he needed, manufacturers came to his Wind Gap, PA, yard to see what Raimo had built.

The Raimos, originally of Caldwell, NJ, and the scrap industry go way back to a time when “scraps” meant rags.

“My grandfather came over from Italy and fought in WWI for the Americans,” explained J.F.R. Salvage Inc. President Joseph Raimo. “He came home when the war was over and decided to open up a salvage store in 1918.”

He used the heavy equipment of the day — a horse and wagon. After a while in the scrap business, Raimo became a metal scrap broker. His son, Frank, later took over the business and opened a yard in Wind Gap in 1974.

“We did a lot of papers when we first started and lots of scrap metal,” Raimo said. “After a while, we switched to just metal and as the recycling industry grew, we grew with it.”

Raimo said his yard was the first he knew of at which an excavator was used with a magnet back in the early 1970s when everyone else was still using cable cranes and magnets. Raimo said everyone thought his father was a lunatic for adding a magnet to an excavator. “My dad went by the saying that ’sometimes for you to be successful, at times you must be thought of as a fool.’ Wow, did everybody think he was a fool to put this magnet on a hydraulic excavator.”

Raimo found that using an excavator with a magnet gave him more control than he had with a cable crane. Anybody could be taught to operate it and they were much safer. The only downside was the lack of reach.

Raimo took the piston normally used on an Insley excavator to control the bucket and added a third stick to it for longer reach. When Insley representatives visited J.F.R. Salvage, they thought it was such a good idea that they copied Raimo’s idea and sold the machine to him at a discount. They told him that his fabrication was the first of its kind to be used in a scrap yard.

“Koehring came in here and saw what we had and they built one, too,” Raimo said. “My dad made it easy. Anyone could come off the street and use the sticks the way my dad designed them. This astounded many around my dad, including manufacturers; little did he know what he would contribute across the world in the scrap industry.”

From Frank Raimo’s idea, the Cowering Scraper — a triple stick machine with a magnet and elevated cab —was born.

“According to these manufacturers it all started with my dad, Frank Raimo. Now everybody uses them in all kinds of sizes and shapes,” Raimo said.

Raimo said that his company gets its salvage from road jobs, industrial accounts and “over the scale” customers who stop by J.F.R. Salvage to be weighed. “They call us and we get it or they bring it here because they know they are going to be treated right and have everything done environmentally safely,” he explained.

Today, J.F.R. Salvage has a safety record and service record that is one of the best in their business.

“We have had over 3,620 days without an injury and we always comply with all regulations that I think my father would laugh at.” For example, Raimo said, years ago they used a torch to cut metals. As more efficient machinery was built, the industry evolved. “We use a LaBounty shear as well as a bailer,” he said.

In the nearly 30 years since the Raimo’s opened their 7.5-acre site, the equipment hasn’t been the only change the scrap industry has seen. “Today the grades of iron are more specific and refined,” Raimo explained. “Years ago the steel mills weren’t as particular. Now they only deal with specific types of iron, so it gets tougher to please these folks and we have the screening and quality control to meet these ever-changing demands in this industry. And we’ve had to adapt to stricter environmental requirements.”

In keeping with family tradition, Raimo’s son, John, has joined the business. “I am proud to have John with me. His heart is in the business. His relationship skills are great and he’s enthusiastic about what he does. He runs all of the machines here and when he wants something done, it gets done, because like his predecessors he leads from the front, not from behind. This is something we are proud of as the Raimo family.”

Today, there are several excavators in the J.F.R. yard. Two of them are fixed with grapples to handle all kinds of materials, two are fixed with magnets and two are fixed with LaBounty shears. They also have a bailer with its own grapple. J.F.R. also has two forklifts and two wheel loaders with forks and buckets to move materials around the yard.

“The most recent of our acquisitions were from Jason Wasielevski, a very personable and knowledgeable sales representative from Furnival Machinery,” Raimo said. “Jason was pleasantly persistent and we just bought one Komatsu wheel loader with attachments and tool carriers, which is nice because you can drop the bucket. We have been very pleased with operating this machine. We also bought a Kobelco 400 excavator with a LaBounty MSD 100 shear attachment, also from Furnival. And this does the job very well, too.”

He said he’d like to update the company’s container system and get an automatic bailer.

“One of the most important things that we will do in the future is what we do every day: work hard and make the customer happy and be at peace with their salvage needs,” Raimo said.

While there are other locations with the Raimo name, the one in Wind Gap is the only one still owned by a Raimo.