By Katrina Wilson
People may have passed Penny’s Used Parts salvage yard many times over the last 60 years. Or maybe they have interacted with the generations of Archies at the black-owned Woodbridge business. Whatever the memory may be, the family business burned down at the end of September and destroyed plenty of parts and family history. A GoFundMe with a goal of $100,000 has been created to help rebuild the business.
Shannon Archie can go by many names, like co-owner of Penny’s Used Parts. She may be known as the owner’s daughter. Most recently, she may be recognized as the organizer of a GoFundMe that will help her family rebuild their business.
Archie’s father, Richard “Penny” Archie is the owner of Penny’s Used Parts — a business he and his siblings took over when their dad died decades ago.
She told Prince William Living: “We always have had good customers. People come back to us. People from different states come to us. Like any business, there are ups and downs, but we’re still here.”
Henry and Anne Archie are the pioneers of the family business. On Sept. 28, Penny’s Used Auto Parts on Minnieville Road was burnt to the ground.
“When my grandparents started the business, you couldn’t buy new parts for cars like now,” Archie said.
She said the used parts from vehicles were available to fix cars. She added that at the time, there were no other junkyards in the area. Because of her grandparents’ business, people didn’t have to travel far for parts.
She said her grandfather worked with customers. People bought on credit if they didn’t have the money and paid him later, something she said her dad has done over the years.
“The business is my dad’s everything,” Archie said. “It used to be their family home.”
It burned down when he was a kid. His parents built it back up on the family’s land. When his dad died when he was 12, he and two of his brothers ran the business.
It’s been her dad’s only job in life.
Archie, along with her older brothers and sisters, worked there over the years answering phones and bringing customers to cars on golf carts because of the acreage of the yard. She remembers hanging out with their dad there. She started working at the business when she was in high school and continued during her college breaks. She said that her cousins have worked there over the years too.
“We all received our first cars from the yard,” Archie said. She remembers getting hers for her sweet 16.
She recalled the Pac-Man machine kids played on while they waited for their parents. She and her family would give the kids snacks and candy while they waited. That machine is now gone due to the fire.
How to help
The business does not have insurance because when insurance shopping, insurance companies denied them because they were a junkyard.
If people wonder if their donations will help, Archie said it can.
“It’ll help us tremendously,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot on the inside. The junkyard will always be home for us.”
She added that the cost of products has skyrocketed in recent years. She noted if this uneventful fire happened years ago, they probably could rebuild for $20,000 instead of $100,000.
“We have to get permits from the county, the wood, pay workers, replace parts and a lot of things we can’t replace.”
Nonreplaceable items include the pictures on their Wall of Fame, where people brought in pictures of her family from the 1950s, now gone. The Memory Wall of her late mother and uncle.
“The money gets the business back to where it was,” Archie said.
The Community Support
“It means a lot,” she said. “Words are just words, but when you literally show it, it means everything.”
She said the fact that people who know and don’t know her family has donated has been helpful.
“For you to give us money, something that you worked for, it means so much to us,” Archie said.
Customers have come by to check on them and Archie said it has been good-hearted and neighborly. It’s one of the reasons when folks donate to the GoFundMe she personally writes a note to the donor.
“We don’t take it for granted,” she said.
Currently, they are operating at a minimal status because they still have cars to fix and people to help. They sit on the seats of cars in front of the business to ensure they can still help customers. She knows rainy and cold days will come, but for now, they will make do.
Katrina Wilson graduated from Francis Marion University. You can follow her on Twitter at KatrinaMWilson_.