You may not know Kyle Weisner but probably feel like you do, or should. And he appreciates it.
Weisner is a third-generation family member and owner of Victory Auto Wreckers Inc., which has been around for 78 years.
The Bensenville-based company is etched in the minds of Chicago-area residents for a long-running classic commercial — yes, that one — with a hippy-dude who has his beater car door fall off as he opens it.
You may not have had an old car to sell. But if you did, you knew it would be worth money at Victory Auto Wreckers.
That’s why Weisner’s phone has been ringing nonstop and T-shirt sales have jumped since he announced the business closing on Dean Richards’ WGN Radio 720 show Sunday morning.
“It’s endearing,” he said Tuesday of the ongoing response. “I didn’t think we had that much of an impact on people’s lives. Thank you so much for everything.”
Nov. 18 is the last day Victory will accept vehicles and Nov. 30 is the final day it will be open to the public.
“We’re closing. We’re done. It’s over,” Weisner said. He began working full-time at Victory more than three decades ago.
Eighty-hour, seven-day work weeks were not unusual, and he always was available for whatever was needed. Weisner said his kids aren’t interested in carrying on the business, and it’s time to retire.
“I used to work ridiculous hours. I had a mistress — my mistress was Victory Auto Wreckers,” he said. “It’s a great business. If I was 20 or 30 years younger, I’d still be going.”
Victory has been buying cars and selling parts at its self-service yard at 710 E. Green St., since it was founded in 1945. The Weisner family took over in 1967.
“It seems like the end of an era and we wish the Victory Auto Wreckers family all the best,” Village President Frank DeSimone said in a statement. “What’s more, we all loved their legendary commercial that never changed but always mentioned where they were proud to do business — Bensenville.”
Situated on nine acres, Victory has an inventory of more than 400 cars and processes more than 2,000 tons of crushed cars every month.
About 85% of the parts that make up a car are recycled. Fluids and other materials are drained, disposed and recycled.
“We were green before green was cool,” according to Victory’s website. Indeed, whatever isn’t sold before closing will be recycled.
“There’s a difference between a junk yard and a recycling center,” Weisner said. “There is responsibility tied to that.”
For most of its existence, Victory’s unpaved yard was known for dirt, dust and mud. That was remedied in late 2014 and early 2015 with a transformative $4 million upgrade.
It’s not as lucrative a business as it once was, Weisner said.
Expenses and regulations have increased, and specialized equipment is needed to work on modern vehicles.
“Now everything is computerized and fuel-injected,” he said. “That certainly has cut into business.”
Weisner said the business isn’t being sold but the property will be offered for sale and they likely will have an “estate sale” of tools and other items on Black Friday.
He said he knows the commercial was a big thing in the Chicago area but marvels at the attention the announcement is getting.
“Who knew 38 years later people would even care about it,” he said. “It had such impact on people’s childhoods and lives. I’m overwhelmed.”