work for me.’ It took almost 20 years, but it finally happened.” Curtis joined Schupan & Sons seven years ago.
Making the most of metal
monitors metal prices and other industry trends. His geographic reach is all of Michigan, northern Ohio and northern Indiana. “We are putting equipment at a manufacturing facility for them to collect the scrap,” says Curtis during a facility tour, amid beeps, bangs and thumps. “We are picking it up, bringing it back here, grading it, processing it, aggregating it and shipping it to a mill that is going remelt it. They are making raw materials that’ll go back to those same industrial accounts that we’re picking up (from). It’s very much a closed loop.” Curtis, who grew up in Battle Creek, started working at a metal trading company in Baltimore more than 25 years ago. Schupan & Sons was a major trading partner of the company, and as part of his training Curtis returned to Kalamazoo to learn about the operation here. “Marc, being the kind of guy he is, spent the whole week with me personally,” Curtis says. “He used to joke around (when) we’d see each other at trade shows — ‘Someday you’ll come back home and come to
About three miles away from SIRS is Schupan’s Electronics Asset Management building, on Peekstock Drive. It’s a relatively new arm of Schupan & Sons, which purchased a company specializing in mining valuable bits of metal from outdated electronics in 2013. One passes through a metal detector before entering the warehouse. Immediately to the left is ITAD, or IT Asset Disposition. Police departments, law firms, hospitals, schools and others bring their hardware here to be wiped clean and, in some cases, shredded. In another section of the building, employees review a variety of electronics coming through a “triage lane.” Items in good condition are cleaned, tested and resold in the online refurbished electronics store, Fresh Tech Direct. If the electronic item is deemed unusable, it moves to another portion of the building to be dismantled, with its components separated into a series of bulk-sized corrugated boxes. Hard drives. Steel. Plastic. Batteries. There are thousands of circuit boards here that Operations Manager Drew Beekman and his staff carefully mine to extract gold, silver, platinum and palladium. “The precious metals content in each board varies. You might have a board worth $8 a pound and then one worth 20 cents a pound,” Beekman says. In 2020, the division successfully recycled 3,500,000 pounds of electronic devices, extracting the precious metals while keeping the hazardous waste embedded in the devices from reaching landfills. At the other end of the company spectrum is the 140,000-squarefoot Schupan Aluminum & Plastic Sales, or SAPS, located along Davis Creek Court. General Manager Pete Gildea, whose father, Mike Gildea, was a longtime executive at SAPS, winds a tour past a wall of framed, autographed hockey jerseys and uses the Schupan-made hands-free door opener to access the sprawling facility housing dozens of highend metal cutting and bending machines, CNC equipment and row after row of stacked metal and plastic inventory. Forklifts and delivery trucks rumble through the property, which was expanded in 2019. “SAPS really started in the late ’70s and early ’80s selling out of our scrapyard,” Gildea says. “Someone would want a little piece of this and a little piece of that. Well, then we didn’t have it, so we’d order it from another distributor company. One thing led to another and it evolved” into the manufacture and distribution of aluminum and plastic products for customers in industries including office furniture, outdoor furniture, aerospace, and medical equipment. SAPS is on track to fill 100,000 orders this year. Schupan & Sons also has a global reach through its Materials Trading division, started in 2017 and led by Andy McKee. The division trades both scrap and new aluminum, used beverage containers, PET plastic and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The group operates across the U.S., doing business with 350-plus scrap suppliers in more than 30 countries. In 2020, amid the pandemic, Schupan Materials Trading moved 350 million pounds of material, roughly 40 semi-truck loads per day. And if you’ve ever wondered what happens to the billions of bottles and cans brought back to retailers for deposit in Michigan each year, w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 15