Co-Owner, Secretary and Treasurer at Austin Metal & Iron Co.
In sixth grade, when Ike Shapiro first got a taste of what it was like to work in the scrap industry alongside his father, Bobby Shapiro, at Austin Metal & Iron Co. LP, he says he knew it was his dream job.
“I’m the youngest of four siblings, and my dad put us all to work here starting about the sixth grade during spring breaks, winter breaks and summer breaks,” Ike Shapiro says. “They weren’t glorious jobs—shoveling, sweeping, painting—but I think you either love it or you hate it. My middle brother, I remember him telling me he couldn’t wait to get a real job. But from the get-go, I fell in love with this industry and wanted to be a part of it.”
After college, Ike Shapiro says his father encouraged him to work outside the family business for a few years to gain new experiences. About nine years ago, he officially joined the business as a co-owner, secretary and treasurer. He is a fourth-generation owner of Austin Metal & Iron alongside his brother Jim Shapiro.
“You have to keep metal flowing since you don’t know what tomorrow’s markets will bring.”
Ike Shapiro says his job isn’t limited to just one segment of the business, despite his title. He says being one of the owners of a medium-sized scrap yard means getting involved in all aspects of the business, from setting prices for materials to managing the human resources department, but “that’s one of the things I love about what I do.”
Recycling Today (RT): What are some new things happening at Austin Metal & Iron?
Ike Shapiro (IS): I’d say the newest thing is our copper brokerage company (St. Louis-based Generation Metal Trading LLC), which is definitely a lot of fun and something we haven’t done before. We have a great relationship with the partnership we started a year ago, and we’re looking forward to growing that in 2020.
RT: What are some lessons you learned working outside the family business, either in high school or after college?
IS: My dad always had this saying that there’s no such thing as a menial job and there are life lessons with every job you have, even cleaning the bathroom.
My first job in high school outside of the family business was at Bed Bath & Beyond. Working there taught me that to be good at what you do, you have to learn the whole entire company. And I think that’s the No. 1 thing I see in the recycling industry with the successful guys: You have to know how to do everything. I can run every piece of equipment we have here—balers and everything. To be good sitting behind a desk, you have to have knowledge of what’s going on outside and what it takes to get things done.
RT: What are the biggest challenges that you’ve faced so far in your career?
IS: The biggest challenge I faced in my career was the fall of 2008. We went from the highest of highs and great business to terrible overnight with the financial crisis. That went into 2009.
I learned that you have to prepare for rainy days. Doing what we do and handling commodities, there is a lot of risk. You have to keep metal flowing since you don’t know what tomorrow’s markets will bring.