The Padnos family business has been transforming the recycling industry for more than a century.
Louis Padnos emigrates from Russia as a teenager, crosses Europe and the Atlantic, and peddles and trades through the U.S. He finally settles in Holland, Michigan, in 1905.
With horse and wagon, Louis peddles for scrap in Western Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, and Northern Wisconsin to begin fulfilling the American dream.
By 1910, Louis had been in West Michigan for five years and was established in business. Out of his peddling had grown a small scrap yard on North River Avenue in Holland, Michigan, dealing in rags, hides, metals, and furs.
In 1920, Louis and his wife, Helen, welcomed the arrival of their first son, Seymour, followed two years later by Stuart.
Louis buys an existing scrap yard on East Eighth Street in Holland in which he and Helen are equal partners.
When Louis falls ill, Helen single-handedly runs the business and the family’s affairs for nearly a year while still managing the home and raising their two children. The depression hits hard.
Despite the depressed economy in the early 30s, Louis makes a bold move to expand the business by purchasing Ottawa Furniture Company on River Avenue, a few blocks west of the PADNOS scrap yard.
The steady success of the PADNOS scrap paper business persuaded Louis to purchase a mechanical baler in 1936, advancing the company’s entry into scrap processing.
After the war, Seymour and Stuart take over running the family business from their parents… With the same determination that had characterized their father’s efforts in all the years since he had left Russia, the Padnos brothers set about expanding the family business.
By the end of 1948, the company owns 15 vehicles, two mobile cranes, and employs a workforce of 30 employees.
The company expands its operations west from the River Avenue plant and new equipment is purchased designed to make the yard more efficient.
In 1955, the brothers inaugurate a profit-sharing plan, a plan that continues today.
In 1959, Seymour and Stuart, with the concurrence of their families, establish the Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation as a way to give back to the community and honor their forebears.
Beginning in the 1960s, the company experiences tremendous growth in directions that had only been dreams – transforming the local processor into a company with international ties.
Seymour and Stuart become convinced the scrap industry is in the midst of significant change and failure to keep pace will prove fatal – greater mechanization and increased efficiencies were critical.
Expanding into auto-fragmentation, a fragmentizer is installed at the Holland yard. The Joint Engineers Council of Western Michigan named it the Project of the Year, and it received widespread coverage, including NYT headline: “$1-Million Junk Yard Machine Can Rip a Car to Shreds in Two Minutes.” PADNOS installs a rarely used hot briquetter systems to heat and form turnings and borings into pillow-shaped briquettes.
In 1974, PADNOS receives a refund on its workers’ compensation insurance thanks to efforts in maintaining an outstanding safety record. It goes to employees in the form of college tuition grants for their children starting the PADNOS Dependent Scholarship Program.
In the late 70s and early 80s, the third-generation Padnos family members join the company – Jeff, Doug, Mitch, and Shelley.
During the economic downturn of the early 80s, the company prepares for additional growth. Others in the scrap trade are not as well positioned and are unable to cope with the economic challenges, providing the company with acquisition opportunities.
With the same tenacity and grit of the second generation, the third generation decides to expand the company’s geographic footprint and heads to ‘the big city’ of Grand Rapids, acquiring two of the main competitors in the area.
The 90s mark continued geographic expansion including the corporate office complex in Holland, Michigan, and major acquisitions – a footprint in Lansing, Michigan, and locations in Muskegon and Traverse City, Michigan.
In recognition of their many efforts on behalf of Grand Valley State University, GVSU confers a major honor on Seymour and Esther through the dedication of the Seymour and Esther Padnos School of Engineering.
In 2005, the company celebrates its 100th anniversary.
In 2008, the company expands its plastics recycling business and purchases a 450,000-square foot building at 500 44th street in Wyoming, Michigan.
The company makes additional acquisitions of scrap businesses in southern Michigan – Dowagiac, Benton Harbor, and Buchanan and advances the company’s central Michigan footprint in Alma.
The fourth-generation family members, Jonathan, Sam, and Josh, join the family business.
Committed to staying current with technology, the company makes its largest capital investment in history, installing an advanced metal sorting unit capable of separating nonferrous metals from dry recyclables, a significant advancement in the company’s processing strength.
In 2014, PADNOS invests in its first out-of-state expansion with the purchase of a plastics compounding business in Fremont, Indiana, now known as PADNOS Plastics Solutions.
In 2020, Louis Padnos joined the company alongside the other current fourth-generation family members.
In 2022, the company expanded its footprint in eastern Michigan with the acquisition of Great Lakes Advanced Recycling and B. Clinkston & Sons Inc. Through the acquisitions, PADNOS grew its capabilities and reach within the auto and scrap recycling market in Saginaw and greater Detroit markets.
Both companies join PADNOS with a similar family-operated and roll up our sleeves approach to make recycling solutions happen for each customer.
We’ve come a long way from Louis Padnos’ early 1900’s single, horse-drawn wagon. Today, PADNOS is over 900 team members strong and continues our commitment to the values of the family business Louis built. Our culture is one in which continuous learning is an integral part of every role. Growth. Opportunity. Success. Energy. And a passion for scrap… that’s how we started and that’s how we will grow.