Here is another piece from ESSES, the Early 911S Registry’s quarterly publication, while I was the art director/graphic designer. I asked my buddy John Gray to interview Jim Breazeale, owner of EASY (European Automotive Salvage Yard). Without Jim, I don’t think I would be able to afford my car! Thanks for all the great parts Jim!
Printed with permission from ESSES.
TAKE IT EASY: MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
Interview by John Gray
Photos by Bob Tilton
For 31 years, Jim Breazeale and European Auto Salvage Yard have been a fixture in the Northern California Porsche community, selling parts and providing a favorite meeting place for Porsche enthusiasts. We sat down with Jim and Bella, his yellow Lab and official greeter at the shop, to see just how EASY thirty years have passed.
ESSES: Do you remember the very first car that you had in?
JIM: It was a 914, a 1971 that had an interior fire because someone had thrown a road flare into it. I bought it at the auction, then fixed it and sold it to my cousin. He drove it for 2 or 3 years, then one weekend when he was gone, one of his kids snuck it out and ended up sliding it sideways into a pole. It ended up at State Farm again, I ended up buying it back again, and the remains of it are in a photo in the office.
ESSES: With all the cars and people that have passed through here in 31 years, have you ever had occasions where someone has been found a car they owned years before, or found missing parts original to a car they were restoring?
JIM: Fairly recently I bought a 356A Coupe, it was up at a shop in Napa, CA. They said there were some extra parts with the car and told me what they wanted for it, so I went up the next day and towed it home. Around ten years ago, there was a fellow over here from Denmark doing medical work and living in the area. He would come in and buy cars from me, mostly 912s, and send them back to Denmark. But he wanted a 356, so I found him a ‘65C Cab. It was a sweetheart of a car, had been stored for 25 years after the owner had taken it on a skiing trip and rolled it in the snow. It was a soft rollover, so it was really not in bad shape, and still had only 25 or 30 thousand miles on it. I sold the car to Bruno while he was here and he sent it up to Napa to be fixed by a different guy who had repaired cars at Werks1 for the factory. This dragged on for 2 or 3 years and Bruno relocated back to Denmark. Work on the car stopped, so eventually Bruno had it pulled and sent back to Denmark to be finished. So as I’m going through the boxes of stuff that came with this 356A, I come across window regulators, and door parts, and other pieces for a Cab. And then I spot a sky blue data plate. I saw all this stuff, and a said to myself, “I wonder…” I had Bruno’s e-mail address in Denmark, so wrote and asked him if he was missing any parts for his car. He wrote back and said yes, the car was done, but he was missing all the pieces for the doors. I said, “well, I’ve got all the parts for your car.” About a month later he was over here for business and came in and I was able to give him all the missing parts for his car. I got a case of Heinekens out of that deal.
ESSES: That segues into the next question. I know you’ve sent parts all over the world, Australia, Japan, Europe. How much has that part of your business changed since the advent of the internet?
JIM: In the beginning, I would say it was about 70% walk-in business and about 30% wholesale. Virtually nothing out of state, much less out of the country. I’ve never done much advertising, although now we have a Web site and deal with e-mails. We don’t do the volume that we used to, but I would say sales out of the state or country are probably 20% of what we do now.
ESSES: One of the best things about EASY is the service and knowledge that is behind all these parts. There are so many little differences in the cars, and in the level of parts that people are looking for. How well does that work in the e-mail age?
JIM: Well, many times it doesn’t. That’s why I much prefer to deal in person or over the phone. When someone wants a part for their car, it usually takes several questions back from me to be able to figure out what they are actually looking for. If someone sends me an e-mail and says they are looking for a door glass for a 356B, it could be for a beater parked outside that the neighbors kid broke with a baseball who’d be happy with a $50 piece of glass to keep the rain out, or it could be someone looking for an absolute perfect window for a concours winning car. And sometimes people don’t know their cars all that well and it takes a few questions back from me to determine exactly what it is that they need. All of that just works much better over the phone or in person.
ESSES: Many people would not be owners of 356s and early 911s today without the help and service you’ve provided here over the years. That must be a satisfying feeling.
JIM: Well, it’s fun. I enjoy myself, and I think everyone who comes down here enjoys themselves. I’m still dealing with a lot of the same people I dealt with 30 years ago, it’s just that we all have gray hair now. These days, the cars are rarely used for everyday transportation anymore like they used to be, and the people have become more knowledgeable and more passionate, but we really haven’t changed here much at all.
ESSES: And that’s why we all love coming here, as both customers and friends. It’s like visiting a friend’s garage. You come in, you get a doughnut and pat the dog on the head, and you can walk around and see what’s come in, or rummage through a box of window cranks or trim pieces to find just what you want – here the counter is the last stop you make on the way out, instead of the only part of the business the customer is allowed to see. That’s unique in this day and age.
JIM: You know, it was funny – I needed some legal work done recently, and I decided to use a new attorney, a woman here. And I had never met her before, didn’t know her at all. I started talking about wills and retirement and so on, and she said “Oh no, you can’t retire.” I was a bit startled and said, “What do you mean I can’t retire?” She said, “Well, you just can’t – what would all those guys do on Saturdays? They’ve got to have someplace to go!” Turns out her husband owns a 356! And my wife knows I don’t come down here on Saturdays to work – I’m coming down to get out of working at the house and to have fun.
ESSES: Yep, you’ve been making wives all over the Bay Area either mad or happy on Saturdays for a long time. Thanks for all those Saturdays Jim – hope there are many more to come!