It was started going on 80 years ago in Mechanicsville by John Bruce, a tobacco farmer who could trace his ancestry to the famously ferocious Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce.
Back then, as now, Bruce’s Auto Parts sells used parts off the shelf, already taken off and ready to go. That branch of the family wrecking business is run by the clean-shaven grandson.
But across Mechanicsville Turnpike sits the business of the somewhat renegade Bruce grandson, whose long beard resembles that of the Scottish hero who led the struggle for independence from England.
Mark Bruce runs Pop’s Pick & Pay, a self-service junkyard where you pull the parts off yourself and save big bucks.
It’s hardly a new concept. You can find them all over the country. There are now two in South Richmond under the Chesterfield Auto Parts umbrella.
But Pop’s is a different place. (The “Pop’s” being the brothers’ father, John Bruce Jr., who died of a heart attack not long before the Pick & Pay branch of the family business opened.)
Most everybody who works there hunts and/or fishes. Most of them wear beards and longish hair. Not too many “city slickers” in evidence, as one employee noted. If you hang around there for a while, it sort of feels like you’re in an episode of “Duck Dynasty.”
You can get a feel for the place watching the video here.
I’ve gone there several times, most recently to fix substantial body damage to my truck suffered during the last winter storm. I’ve also been to Chesterfield Auto Parts, countless times.
I’ve noticed more people, from all walks of life, keeping their cars and trucks going themselves in these tough times by hunting down and grabbing the parts themselves - getting their hands dirty and paying a fraction of what a new part would cost, and substantially less than one already taken off in a traditional used auto parts store.
Anyone who has read or watched my stories over the years know how much I appreciate characters – and you can certainly find them at Pop’s Pick & Pay.
But the bigger picture is the growing number of people who are just barely getting by as this tough economy continues and the aging boomer generation – 70 million of us – begin retiring in droves or find themselves out of jobs, in some cases hobbled by health problems.
This story is a continuation of a recent series about places where you can seriously stretch your dollars, including the deep-discount Goodwill Outlet Store (the “pay-per-pound”) on Midlothian Turnpike and the Fresh to Frozen grocery salvage further west on Midlothian.
They’re different places for sure.
But it pays to be a bit of a renegade these days.