When it came time for Judy Briggs to decorate her Framingham office, she combed through the trash -- and came up with two black-leather couches, a 12-foot conference table, 10 chairs, a weight-lifting bench with barbells, and a foosball table.
"Everything except my computer and refrigerator is from job pick ups," she said. The 43- year-old Medway resident and her husband, Richard , a sergeant with the Ashland Police Department, own and operate two 1-800-GOT JUNK? franchises covering a big chunk of E astern Massachusetts. It's a family business, employing Briggs's 22-year-old twin sons from her first marriage, Patrick and Christopher Murphy.
"Many people have a misconception when it comes to junk removal," Briggs said, referring to a 1970s TV sitcom. "They think of the old 'Sanford and Son' with someone showing up in a beat-up truck in soiled clothes with a scruffy beard and a cigarette hanging out of their mouth."
Not her staff: They wear tidy uniforms and drive around in shiny trucks. In fact, the trucks are one of their best marketing tools. They call it "parketing." A crew will park a truck at a highly visible location for an hour or two, maybe even overnight -- and presto, a 3-D billboard.
One recent morning, the crew stopped by the Tin Alley Grill on Route 9, parked the truck, climbed on top, donned blue wigs, and performed what they call "The Blue Wig Wave."
Every day's an adventure in the trash-removal business. You never know what will emerge from inside a storage bin or a basement. Some of the more bizarre things that have been hauled away include "a box of dead foxes that had been preserved," said Rich Lewton, 24, of Hopkinton.
Marketing director Elaine Gabrielson recalled: "One of our employees emptied a storage facility in Boston and was instructed to take everything but 'the urn.' "
Then there were the stomach-churning contents of a fridge from a frat house in Worcester and three 55-gallon drums of seafood waste from a weekend wedding in Sudbury last August. "Lobster and clam juice in the hot summer is not a good smell," Briggs said.
Is there anything too big or too gross for them to take?
If the two-man truck team "can carry it or remove it, we will take it," Briggs said. "However, we will not take anything hazardous, like chemicals, propane, batteries, or asbestos."
Radio personality Michael Graham of 96.9 FM TALK (WTKK) is a Got Junk? junkie. Graham first hired the company to remove an old wooden swing set from his backyard in the western suburbs.
"I said, 'Dude, I don't know how you're going to get that in the truck,' but they had hack saws and axes and nuclear stuff, polonium 210, and put it in," Graham joked, adding that they take away all the weird stuff that you don't know what to do with.
Now Graham has the company make a pickup every few weeks after cleaning his outdoor pet stall.
"Recycle won't take it because it has special animal gifts from our friend, Jo-Jo the donkey, and Duncan the horse," Graham said.
The Briggses learned of the junk business in late 2002 after Richard Briggs saw an article about the Got Junk? company in the Globe. He spent three months researching the industry, then the couple traveled to Vancouver to talk trash at the firm's headquarters.
Three days later, they were awarded their first franchise. The cost: $22,000. They've since added a second franchise.
Judy Briggs was previously director of human resources for 3-C Electric Co. in Ashland. Now she works from 7:30 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. scheduling junk pick ups. The company operates seven days a week, and in summer each truck may make as many as 10 junk runs. Business has been so busy that they're adding two trucks to their fleet of six.
Richard Briggs focuses on market strategy, maintaining the trucks, and keeping the books.
So, what do they do with all the junk (besides furnishing the office)? About two-thirds of it is recycled or donated to charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army. The rest they haul to a dump site or transfer station.
It costs the Briggses up to $140 a ton to dispose of trash. They pay extra to get rid of old TVs and monitors because cathode-ray tubes contain toxic materials that are banned from landfills.
Their customers are charged by volume. The minimum fee is $109 for the equivalent space of a washing machine.
They project this year they will just miss their goal of $1 million in revenue.
Are they planning on expanding their territory?
"No. I'm enjoying the territories that we have, but it's a lot of work," said Judy Briggs.
"I'm junked out."
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