Junkman hits the big time
Butler franchiser featured on cable show 'Hoarders'
If you saw the crew from Butler's 1-800-GOT-JUNK? on the cable TV show "Hoarders," then you saw only a small part of what the franchise does.
Todd Yergens' company has appeared twice on the A&E show - last April and just this February. The more recent appearance showed the company taking more than six dump truck loads (10-12 tons) of clothes, toys, furniture and bedding, out of a Milwaukee house.
The 38-year-old single father whose home they cleared out is not a typical customer, Yergens explained during a ride-along interview last week.
"We target high-income families," he said.
His costs, and the rates he charges, require that kind of customer base. He charges $518 for each full dump truck load. Smaller jobs are priced by the one-eighth load, down to a minimum charge of $112.
The prices don't discourage his customers, however, especially his regulars (37 percent of his jobs are from repeat customers, he said).
"One woman called us back recently just to get rid of two poinsettias," he said, "despite our $112 minimum."
Higher-income families often mean dual-income families, and Yergens has found the most receptive market among women 34 to 54 years old.
That might be because "Men are somewhat more reluctant to part with their stuff," he said. "We've gotten angry phone calls from husbands when they come home and find stuff missing."
Sometimes when the husband is home when they arrive, he'll quietly wave Yergens' crew over to the garage, where he'll ask them to unload the stuff they've just picked up.
Yergens' demographic targeting might be narrow, but his geographic territory is broad, stretching from Southeastern Wisconsin all the way north to Manitowoc and Sheboygan.
Yergens takes pride in his company's ethic of social responsibility.
"We're a very green company," he said.
His trucks bring almost two-thirds of what they pick up to places like the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul's and Blessed Again, where the items are sold to benefit charity.
They also bring some appliances to special recycling centers where Freon is extracted from refrigerators and air conditioners and mercury (as much as 13 pounds, he said) from tube TVs.
"We try to divert as much as we can from the landfill," Yergens said.
Going for the sale
When you see the 40-year-old Yergens in operation, you see a man who rarely misses an opportunity to sell.
Because the Sun was riding with Yergens and some of his crew from a Brookfield job where they picked up a couch and vertical console TV for $154, he decided to forego his usual practice of inserting company brochures in the newspaper delivery boxes of his customer's neighbors or hooking door hangers over their front door doorknobs.
He drove instead to 124th Street and Capitol Drive where he and his wife Jenny and several crew members paraded up and down the sidewalk with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? placards.
The business even has four vehicles just for marketing - two vans and two trucks with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? painted as large as can fit on the vehicles' sides.
"I call them moving billboards," he said.
He also pays $200 to $300 a month to park them in "in highly visible places" when they're not on the move.
Going for service
It helps that the franchise has such little competition, Yergens said, at least at the same level.
Others in the business locally are usually one- or two-person operations with a single truck who can only handle so much business per day and can't really service jobs that call for more than a single truckload, he said.
The scale of his operation means he can offer his services at his customers' convenience.
"Forty percent of our business is same-day service," he said.
Going for quality
He also prides himself on the quality as well as the speed and convenience of the service he provides. The truck crews wash each truck at least once a day, he said, so they always show up on the job as clean as a whistle.
Like most other businesses, Yergens' franchise has been hit by the Great Recession, but he believes he'll bounce back big time this year.
Last year saw what was for him a "meager" growth of only 7 percent, a far cry from his annual average of 28 percent growth since he opened the franchise in 2004.
This year, though, he's had record months in January and February and March is looking up, too.
He won't really know until spring, however.
"Our business is very weather-dependent," he said. "December, January and February have only one-third the sales of other months."
Yergens' background in marketing began long before then. He had worked 15 years as business development manager for Edy's Grand Ice Cream (a division of Nestle's) before striking out on his own with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
He had read about the Vancouver-based company at JSonline.
He found out it was one of the top 50 franchise companies doing business in the U.S., with franchises in 29 of the country's top 30 markets.
Milwaukee was the 30th, so Yergens flew to Vancouver to find out more, and liked what he saw and heard.
The decision wasn't an easy one, though.
"My wife, Jenny, cried when I told her I had given Edy's my notice," he said. " 'Why would you give up a good job for junk?' she asked me."
Now, however, she's just as enthusiastic as her husband about the business - and that's saying a lot.
"I'm very passionate about this business," Todd said, "and it's fun and exciting, too."
Top stories from the Lake Country area. Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
Do you have news or a nonprofit event that you would like to share with the community? Whether it's a community organization, a business, a local school, or a notable neighbor, we'd love to hear about it.
- MainStage Dancers Perform at OAC May 26th
- FREE Organic Lawn Care Workshops This Saturday!
- Little Treasures Launches Summer Camp June 10-August 30th, 2013
- Hamilton announces April students of the month
- Learn to skate
- Christ the King Church Announces Vacation Bible School Schedule
- Birth to 3 Walk on June 1st Frame Park
- Waukesha County HeartChase is June 22
Lake Country residents share their views on news, happenings and current events.
LivingLakeCountry.com features more than a dozen community bloggers - a group of volunteer conversation leaders who are up on the latest topics and never short on an opinion. Just a few are pictured here. Check out the rest and see what they have to say!
View All Blogs
Do you want to become a Community Blogger? LivingLakeCountry.com welcomes your thoughts and opinions. Contact us for more information:
I want to blog