Pepperell Scrap Yard Rising from the Ashes, with a Little Help
By Scott Shurtleff
PEPPERELL -- Less than a week after an eight-alarm fire destroyed a 30,000 square-foot warehouse full of auto parts, R.H. Willson’s on North Street is already open for business.
With the smell of ash still lingering in the remote corner of town and support from local residents and businesses, the Willsons, and their dozen employees are back at work.
While the fire still raged on the afternoon of Nov. 23, the community stepped in to help their neighbors. Local restaurant C&S Pizza brought food for employees and firefighters. Within days of the blaze, Forrest Marine & RV in Tyngsboro had donated and delivered a mobile command trailer to the site, which now serves as Willson’s central business office.
“I like the Willsons,” said Forrest Marine owner Bruce Flanders. “I donated the trailer because they are a small business just like us. David and Roberta (Willson) would have done the same for us.”
Other local businesses, Marianos of Pepperell and Bailey’s in Townsend, which are both owned by Albert and Pamela Mariano, donated ten percent of their receipts for Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Selectwoman Lisa Ferolito immediately organized a GoFundMe page.
All of this, according to one resident, is because of the Willson’s ongoing contributions to the community over the years. They tow vehicles for the town, remove abandoned vehicles and pick up donated cars from residents. Whatever cannot be salvaged from the vehicles is sent to their car-pressing machine on the property.
That press will now be used to compact not only all the charred contents from the warehouse, but the warehouse itself. The 20-year-old steel and aluminum building will be dismantled and crushed right there at 44 North Road.
“Whatever we can do ourselves, we will,” said co-owner Roberta Willson about the rebuild plans moving forward. She said that as soon the insurance company settles, work will commence.
She said that several agencies have visited as a precaution, including the town conservation office and state inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection, mostly checking for soil and water contamination. Roberta said that nothing of concern was found.
“I was devastated by the fire,” she said. “But I am just thankful that no one was hurt.”
She is also relieved that the damage was limited to the single building, which housed administrative offices as well as hundreds of used motors. The totaled building is one of several structures on the 15-acre tract, which has some 2,000 cars stored in rows surrounding the indoor operations center.
The fire is still under investigation and a cause has not yet been determined, according to Pepperell fire officials.
For employees, the show must go on. Operating without vital land-line telephones and reliable internet, manager Lou Dabney configured all the business numbers to run through his personal cell phone.
With internet reconnected, Dabney has begun the process of putting the significant inventory of new and used auto parts back online.
“We had everything backed up,” he said. In agreement with the nature of his work, he salvaged all the information for reuse.