Cal's cleans up in Colonial Heights
By James Peacemaker Jr., managing editor
Jun 25, 2013, 16:42
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT New windows let in lots of light to Cal’s Inc., a scrap yard, pawn shop and towing service located on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — A longtime business at a major entrance to the city has recently invested thousands of dollars to improve its appearance — and the appearance of the city with it.
Cal’s Inc., a salvage yard located on the southern end of the Boulevard just before the bridge crossing into Petersburg, has been in business since 1935, according to James Meadows, who has operated the business for the past five years since the retirement of his father, Cal. It has been in the family for 23 years. The business also includes towing and a pawn shop.
Meadows said the response from the community has been overwhelming.
“I’ve had so many people respond. I bet I’ve had two or three hundred people come out here and shake my hand,” he said.
Neighbors in particular have been thankful.
“I was standing out there cutting the grass and a guy just walked up and shook my hand and he goes ‘I want to thank you. I live just down the road and I want to thank you for cleaning everything up,’” Meadows said.
“I’ve even had people ask me ‘Did somebody die? What’s going on?’”
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Tools and other items fill the inside of Cal’s.
Large dumpsters used for recycling and scrap metal have been moved from the front of the building to behind a privacy fence. Containers will still be made available for people to drop aluminum cans and used motor oil for recycling.
The fence is being repaired and expanded to hide most of the salvage operation behind the building. Meadows also said he plans to repair a landmark billboard that welcomes people to the city with a clock and the Ten Commandments.
Meadows said the biggest investment was spending about $20,000 to put in new windows across the front of the building. Much of it had previously been boarded up. He said the difference in appearance was shocking even to him.
“I knew it would make it look better but I had no idea how good it was going to make it look,” Meadows said.
The move to clean up the property comes after Meadows sat down over lunch with City Manager Thomas Mattis and they came to a “gentleman’s agreement.” The deal was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two.
Meadows said he grew up in Colonial Heights and is friends with many city officials. He also provides services to the city, such as dumpsters and towing.
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT James Meadows shows off some of the items he has for sale at Cal’s. He said he spent $50,000 to make improvements at his business.
“It’s something they wanted me to do, and they asked me to do it, and I did it,” he said.
But it hasn’t been just city officials asking him to clean up.
“Basically the bottom line is, between my mother and my wife and all these irritating women, they worry you to death ... I decided to clean it up,” Meadows said with a laugh.
The city acknowledges that the business is in compliance with city codes and zoning. The city also agrees to pay for further fencing if it is needed and possibly even some landscaping.
“The City specifically recognizes and supports Cal’s Inc. as an important, viable member of our business community that provides employment opportunities for our citizens, taxes in support of local government, and services desired by our citizens. The City has a definitive interest in helping Cal’s continue as a successful business operation,” the agreement states.
Meadows said the business has six employees and pays tens of thousands of dollars in taxes each year.
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT James Meadows has plans to fix a sign next to Ackerman Auto Service, whose building is also owned by Cal’s Inc. Meadows says he hasn’t decided what to put on the sign yet.
Meadows is also looking over paperwork to get up to $10,000 from the city in matching funds for the improvements. Meadows said he has spent about $50,000 so far on improvements and that amount could grow to $60,000.
The cleanup is a major achievement in the city’s effort to improve the Boulevard corridor. The Boulevard Revitalization Project has been ongoing for a few years, making improvements such as adding sidewalks and streetlights. Major changes on the southern end of the Boulevard include the new courthouse being built just up the hill from Cal’s.
Meadows said he is already seeing an improvement in business.
Half a dozen vehicles were lined up to unload a variety of scrap metal on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
Inside the building are stacks of various items that people have dropped off to be recycled or sold. While at first appearance it looks like chaos, a closer look reveals that there is order in how items are arranged. Tools fill industrial shelves, while bikes and other items are lined up together.
Items for sale even included a set of congo drums, an antique barber chair and a unicycle.
Meadows says he does help out the community when he can, noting that items are sometimes given away, such as band instruments to a local Christian school, or wheelchairs or walkers to those in need.
Meadows says he is not overly concerned about appearance, saying he is a businessman.
“You know people come down and they say ‘This place looks like a junkyard.’ Well yes, that’s what we are,” he said.
Meadows said people always want to complain about things, but don’t understand the costs involved.
“As far as I know, you can go to any salvage yard you want, I think I am going to be the best looking salvage yard in the state,” he said.
Meadows said his wife and her friends plan to put flowers out front and set up tables to sell more items.
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The rollback dumpsters have been removed from the front of Cal's and new windows have been installed.
He said more people are coming in to buy items, and many people are coming in for the first time who didn’t even know Cal’s sold things.
“It has helped the business immensely,” Meadows said.
Meadows said he still hasn’t decided what to put on the billboard. It currently has the Ten Commandments, but the paint is falling off and the clock’s hands no longer turn.
“My dad always like the Ten Commandments, so I might put that back up there or I might even put something like ‘Welcome to Colonial Heights’ and put my picture up there,” he said.
Mattis said he is excited to see the sign fixed, but noted it could take time to find someone to do the repairs.
Meadows said that although there has been a great reaction from the community and from his customers, there is one big drawback — they have to spend a lot more time cleaning windows.