Torrence, 50, looks over the 17-acre scrapyard of Foil's Inc. It's
not just iron that flows through the fourth-generation owner's blood,
but copper, steel, brass and aluminum, too.
Torrence watched as the jaws of the giant shear – a stories-high
machine that looked as if it could share lineage with dinosaurs –
picked up a scrapped beam from the old Poplar Tent bridge and snapped
it in two like a frail spray of uncooked spaghetti.
hundred years ago, hen his great-grandfather started Foil’s Inc.,
the family’s recycling business, a big job like this would have
gone to a team of burly men, often ex-convicts looking to earn their
first honest living.
would bust the concrete with sledgehammers, then bore into its bone
with blowtorches to melt out its metal marrow – the hidden prize.
million-dollar contraptions chew up the work, and concrete crumbs
tumble from their massive jowls.
businesses survive to their five-year anniversary nowadays.
50, a fourth-generation scrapper, took over the company from his
father, Sonny, who took over from his father, Robert Torrence. Robert
took over from his father-in-law, Charles Foil, who started recycling
rags, rubber and iron in 1913.
will probably stay in the family, either the biological one or the
one soldered together by a shared passion for scrap. Torrence’s
will is as firm as iron on that.
have been approached a thousand times to sell it, but you can pry it
out of my cold dead hands,” he said. “It’ll go to the children
or to employees.”
fifth generation – Torrence’s daughters, Amber, 26, who works in
accounts, and Erika, 22, who runs the scales – is keeping the torch
lit and will eventually welcome their brother, Nathaniel, 20, after
college, if he wants in.
a dirty, dangerous job. All day, the 17-acre scrapyard on N.C. 49 in
Harrisburg bustles with a steady parade of trucks. Their backs seem
ready to buckle under the weight of nearly every metal-containing
object imaginable: treadmills, aluminum cans, commercial airplane
continuous crunching, twisting and shredding never quiets down as the
yard’s enormous machines digest heaps of scrap.
generation of the family has been drawn to scrapping like metal to a
was born to do scrap, because I love it,” said Torrence. “I don’t
remember ever doing anything else.”
father agreed. “It’s just something that gets in your blood,”
his father agreed. “It just keeps drawing you back.”
Inc.’s first location was on Church Street, where the county
Governmental Center is now.
a while, the operation churned off Spring Street, behind the Boys &
Girls Club of Cabarrus County.
1971, the business moved to Harrisburg and expanded into auto
recycling. Torrence couldn’t bear to scrap gems that came in, such
as Jaguars and vintage military trucks.
painful for me to see anything like that go through there,” he
past 100 years have brought plenty of changes to the industry.
environmental regulations forced the change from giant furnaces that
melt metal to massive shears and shredders that tear it into pieces.
metal theft has brought regular check-ins from detectives and mounds
of compliance paperwork to scrappers.
handshake has been replaced by the contract.
metal is still king. A magnet is still the handiest tool, and the
desire of the Torrence family to save the earth’s resources for
future generations is unwavering.
raw materials are going,” said Torrence. “We have to recycle. We