Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Larry Adelman '70: Turning Trash into Treasure on Six Continents

Larry Adelman
Larry Adelman

"I took a non-traditional route," Larry Adelman '70 says with a laugh. "I never intended to go into the family business. My situation is so unique compared to some classmates."

Following graduation from the Moritz College of Law in 1970, Larry, who was a member of the Army ROTC, moved on to the University of Virginia's Judge Advocate General's School, before being transferred to Okinawa, where he served as a defense attorney and assisted with the reversion of the island from U.S. military control to Japanese governance. He would also spend time in Germany, before leaving the military in 1976.

Upon returning home, with his uncle in failing health, Larry joined his brother, Carl, in running the family business – a small truck wrecking and salvage yard, started in 1926 by their grandfather.

That was then. This is now.

Today, the business is world wide, one of the largest exporters of medium and heavy duty truck parts, with customers on six continents. The company has grown beyond salvage and has expanded its range of services to its customers. Adelman's Truck Parts Corp. facilities have expanded as well, with four Ohio locations, as well as a storage yard in Chicago.

Larry's time in Okinawa served as inspiration for his later career in business. The island was a logistical depot for military operations in Vietnam, with shipments regularly moving on and off the island. Vehicle repair was one of the major responsibilities of the military on the island. "I got the idea that we didn't have to be localized," Larry says. "There were other opportunities out there. We're a long way from the junk business now."

Adelman truck operations in Canton
Adelman truck operations in Canton

Starting with Central and South America, Adelman's adventures in exporting began, shipping much-needed used truck parts for use in a variety of Third World countries. The company rapidly expanded and began buying used trucks and parts from fleets, governmental entities and individuals throughout the Midwestern and Eastern United States.

The trucks are dismantled into the major components - motors, transmissions and differentials, then shipped overseas. The business specializes in truck parts and used trucks, primarily vehicles greater than one ton, though they do have a pickup and van parts operation as well. They boast over 200 acres of outside storage with 1,200 trucks either for resale or parts, plus 200,000 square feet of warehouse storage for component parts. The company is known nationwide as the number one retailer of used diesel engines as well as a major supplier of rebuilt transmissions and differentials throughout North America.

Recently, business has taken the Adelman name to Asia and Africa, where American truck engines find new life, not on the road, but as part of generator sets for factories and for various types of marine applications.

"Canton, Ohio isn't the center of the universe, but it is roughly equidistant between Chicago and New York and within 500 miles of two-thirds of the U.S. population," Larry says. "Canton is industrial, but the nature of our business is not tied to the local, state or even national economy."

Despite pursuing a non-legal career, Larry says, "the experience and training I got at OSU and through my work in law is invaluable. Our business is a bit of a throwback to the turn of the 20th Century," he says. "It involves a bit of negotiation, horse trading, and an understanding of how business is conducted in foreign cultures."

"We're still a small company," he says. "We're just 40 employees. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades."

Others might add, "and master of all."

Learn more about Larry's company through