Family-run business is a leader in the rise of “urban mining”

In Winnipeg, an ambitious family offers a refined metal scrapping service, turning what is old into something brand-new. IRJ caught up with Canadian entrepreneur Adam Chisick of Urbanmine who told us about the family-run and operated shop, and the key to its long-time success.

In a documentary film, the company’s warehouse is featured, showing several tall piles of metals organized by category and all lined up side-by-side. Walking with his cane, Max Chisick stops at one pile. “This one is stainless steel and probably weighs close to 40,000 pounds,” tells Chisick, the second generation of Urbanmine Inc.

Established in the early 1900s, the founder weathered many difficulties but after the Great Depression showed great resilience and persistence. As Chisick explains in the film, it didn’t take long for him to absorb the knowledge he needed to work in the metals industry as he was mechanically-inclined and quickly became an expert—simply because he was interested. “I learned all the types of metals and stayed with it,” tells the elder Chisick.

Like many other things that change over time, so did the company. Today, Urbanmine has grown to an efficient business run out of a modern office space. And evidently, metal industry interest runs in the family. As the youngest member of the family, Adam Chisick has taken the family business and made it new again. With new machinery added and more efficient systems set in place, Urbanmine processes the materials in an open space for customers to see.
Transparent, clean, organized and modern: these words really describe how the Chisick family has transformed the traditional scrap yard. “There used to be a junk yard in the north end of Winnipeg that my grandfather worked at when he was eight years old,” tells Chisick, who is the fourth generation of the family-owned and operated scrap metal recyclers. “Many customers used to complain about how in other yards they’d blow out a tire just driving through the lot, but not here; when you come into ours it’s a clean, organized facility and we’ve received many compliments,” says Chisick.

Transforming the old scrap yard

“A lot has changed since my great-grandfather began his business. Back then, they used to call it ‘scrapping,’ but today we called it ‘urban mining,’” explains Chisick, who oversees some of the buying and operations as well as marketing relations at Urbanmine. His mother is the controller and his father, Mark, who owns the family business, left another company along with his brother a few years ago. That’s when they decided to start their own business and Urbanmine was born.

Last October, Urbanmine celebrated its second anniversary in a new facility with a growing staff. “Basically, we’re trying to bring a modern approach to the scrap metal business. Often there are some negative associations with the business we’re in, so we prefer to have a fresh, clean, modern and transparent approach,” Chisick says, explaining how Urbanmine got its name. In an attempt to break away from the image of cluttered facilities with mountains of junk that cause contaminated environments, disappointment and deception, Urbanmine metal recycling offers a clean, organized, efficient facility with pleasing personnel who put the customers’ interest first.

The company’s customers are industrial-type companies, including manufacturing and fabricating plants, auto and truck repair facilities, pipefitters, electricians, contractors, scrap metal dealers, auto wreckers and scrap metal collectors. Recycling services provided to these customers range from scrap metals, batteries, catalytic converters, electronic waste (e-waste) and ingot distribution.

“We also have what’s called peddlers, or general contractors—some who make a living from traveling around pick up scrap metal from farms, small shops. We also buy materials from other metal sellers as far as B.C. to Toronto, even in the United States, Minnesota and North Dakota,” says Chisick.

The slowdown in the U.S. economy has had an impact on several businesses, but Urbanmine has had an advantage because they are still growing their client base by the week. “We’re trying to picking up more commercial accounts especially in the manufacturing sector and machine shops,” explains Chisick.

The great thing about having years upon years of experience is that the knowledge base exists within the organization and there’s still room for growth. Going forward, Urbanmine will continue to expand its operations, increase its retail traffic and carve out a niche market.