we’ll try some things. Maybe some won’t work, so you move on to other things. The world is changing all the time.” In 1974, at the age of 26, Schupan took over what was then simply a metal recycling company after the sudden death of his father, Nelson. At the time it employed six people from a heatless building on Lake Street. Now Schupan & Sons is one of the leading metal and plastic recycling and manufacturing companies in the Midwest, with 500 employees and 15 facilities in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. Schupan is a walking, talking motivational poster — he always seems to have an inspiring quote handy to preach honesty, loyalty, agility or tenacity. Fittingly, sports had a major role in his youth and nearly became part of his professional calling. He is a member of the Loy Norrix High School Sports Hall of Fame for basketball and football. After graduating from Michigan State University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he earned a teaching certificate and taught and coached baseball, basketball and football in Caro, just east of Saginaw. Schupan says he was veering toward becoming a lawyer or college basketball coach when, in the summer of 1974, his father asked him to join his scrap metal company, then called Konigsberg Co., which Nelson had purchased in 1968. Marc took a sabbatical from teaching and coaching. A few weeks later, his father died of a stroke. He was 53. “People say, ‘As an entrepreneur, did you plan any of this?’ Not really,” Marc Schupan says. “When my dad died, it was like failure wasn’t an option. So you did what you had to do. You worked as hard as you needed to. We were never wealthy growing up. We worked. We had good values. “I wish my father had been around a lot longer to see things. He’d be pretty amazed. We’ve come a long way.”
Marc Schupan is also a principal in UBCR (Used Beverage Container Recovery), the company that collects, transports, and processes empty beverage containers for Michigan’s largest retailers, and the Norwegian-based Tomra, which provides reverse vending machines used for bottle and can returns at large stores. Still, say company leaders, most folks in Kalamazoo know the company for its scrap metal yard on Miller Road. Each day steady streams of property owners and contractors drop off all sorts of metal at Schupan Industrial Recycling Services, or SIRS. Staff weigh and grade the material and pay customers for the metal. They primarily see aluminum. Occasionally, the staff will spot a unique item that may go to Rescued Metals & Equipment, another limb of the Schupan company tree, instead of heading to a mill for recycling (see story on page 23).
More than scrap metal For the first four decades or so, Schupan & Sons branded itself a metal recycling company. But it has moved far beyond the scrap processing yards of its infancy, now boasting five divisions that specialize in industrial scrap recycling, electronics recycling, aluminum and plastic fabrication and distribution, beverage container processing, and materials trading. 14 | ENCORE MAY 2021
At SIRS, shipping trucks move between a series of warehouses and several large cubes of bundled metal. Most of the facilities are open-air, meaning temperatures can soar during the summer and plummet in the winter. This is the domain of Gary Curtis, president of SIRS, and his team. Consistent with other Schupan leaders, Curtis constantly
Clockwise from top right: CNC milling machines produce custom aluminum and steel products for customers; precious metals extracted from electronics; a sampling of the different product lines available through Schupan & Sons; and employee Nolan Waddell monitors the progress of a product being milled by a Mazak CNC machine.