Nick Brosko is a businessman of deep religious faith who offers Bibles to customers along with used carburetors and transmissions.
At a meeting nearly two years ago that could have ended with the 53-year-old Brosko being able to retire from the auto-salvage business, he let himself be guided by God rather than another convincing force - developer Brian O'Neill.
"I just felt God was telling me, 'Be patient. Keep doing what you're doing. I'll take care of the rest.' "
So Brosko turned down what O'Neill said was an offer of "a lot of money" to buy his Essington Avenue Auto Parts in Southwest Philadelphia and further clear the way for the gargantuan $218.5 million Philadelphia Regional Produce Center.
In large part, Brosko said, his decision was about saving the jobs of six employees he had at the time.
"I just didn't have it in me to say, 'I've got mine, and you guys are unemployed,' " Brosko recalled yesterday in an office where a sign next to the service counter reads: "Free Bibles. Just Ask."
The father of four said he also wanted to preserve a job option for his kids should they want to follow in his grease-stained footsteps - especially his 24-year-old son, a Marine serving in Afghanistan.
Brosko's message to O'Neill was unequivocal: "I said I'm not interested."
That didn't stop O'Neill. Steel framing is up on what, when completed next July, will be one of the largest development projects in the vast residential and commercial portfolio of O'Neill Properties Group.
Rising more than 40 feet high on 48 acres of what used to be junkyards across from the Airport Auto Mall, the 686,000-square-foot produce center cuts an imposing figure - and dwarfs Essington Avenue Auto Parts, a presence on that brownfields strip since 1976.
Actually, the produce center sits in the middle of Brosko's business.
The front acre, which runs along Essington Avenue, is where Brosko has parked his office - a 50-foot-long trailer painted red and white on the outside and retrofitted with desks, phones, computers, and security monitors on the inside. Parked around it are about 100 late-model cars and trucks, their hoods up for easy parts-browsing by customers.
Behind the produce center, Brosko owns an additional five acres - his half of the 10 acres he and his brother Michael split in 2001, when they ended their business partnership. An additional 1,400 junked cars are stored back there. The entrance is about 600 feet from the new market.
According to Brosko, "developers started coming in and buying up property" around 2005.
First to go was the driving range next door, he said, then the land behind it that largely makes up the bulk of the produce center's property. That site is now owned by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, which bought the land for the produce center from an O'Neill affiliate and is leasing it back to that entity, Essington Avenue Partners II L.P.
When he explained his sense of commitment to his employees to O'Neill, Brosko said, the developer not only was understanding, but also settled an easement dispute by building Brosko a driveway connecting his two parcels.
"There's no way to debate that," O'Neill said recently of Brosko's reasons for wanting to stay put. "He just likes his business, loves his employees.
"We said, 'Fine . . . we'll build around you.' "
And so they have. Brosko, who has an up-close view of the cranes from his office window, has not regretted his decision.
"Looking back now and seeing how the economy is, I see it was the right thing," he said. "We all have jobs to go to in the morning."
That sentiment was echoed by Tom Gillner, 54, who has worked for Brosko for six years, currently running the office.
Gillner said he was looking forward to the produce center's opening: "I think it will bring more traffic to us."
That's assuming the traffic will find the salvage yard.
As a goodwill gesture, Brosko said, he will move his front-lot operation to the back lot in the next couple of months.
"I don't think it's fair for me to say [to the produce center], 'Hey, I'm going to leave a junkyard in your parking lot,' " he said.
Asked about the "available" sign hanging on the chain-link fence out front, Brosko acknowledged that the move also could mean extra income for him.
"We'll lease this out to a clean business - maybe a McDonald's or a bank," he said.
Told of Brosko's plans yesterday, O'Neill said: "That is a good-neighborly gesture, and we welcome it with open arms."