By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire
Despite a few nudges from his colleagues now and then, President Al Gerard, of Al’s Rubbish & Container, has no plans to retire at the age of 63. He has too much to be grateful for—a small business he’s got down to a science, a wife he admires, an energetic son to carry on the rubbish name, and an Office Manager whom he claims “is what makes everything go well.” The past summer, likewise, dealt him a hand of aces. His business boasted some of the highest sales ever (even during the vacation season which is typically slow).
Not too shabby for a local garbage man. He’s stayed at it for twenty-years and made forward progress along the way amid competition. So what’s the secret to his sauce?
“I sit here and get stomach aches,” he jokes, answering another phone call while turning down the knob of an antique window box air conditioner. Then he clears things up. “I hired Marnie. That’s the secret.”
Al’s Rubbish & Container patrons can count on Marnie Havalotti to pick up the phone, schedule pick-ups, answer questions, and keep the business of rubbish running as smooth as a shiny 2018 Hino. His employees can count on Al for health insurance, full-time benefits, and 401K plan options. Known as a dumpster company, they run off of five different sized dumpsters, their niche being the 10 – 25 yard container. They service homeowners, contractors, roofers and absolutely anyone in need of getting rid of material. They deliver dumpsters to the homeowner for a one-week rental. Additionally, they offer subscription service for those in need of weekly disposal pick-ups and even offer bulk clean-outs for homes in need.
“We are the little guy in a big rubbish company world,” Al Gerard, a closet antique man, says. “Tonight I will be answering phones until seven at night. I have to keep busy. I have an obligation to my employees. Nowadays larger companies are devouring little guys. We are doing what the big companies are doing, but at a lower price. Our prices are 35% cheaper than the franchises advertised on television.”
He may be the little fish in a big pond, but Al’s priorities have been hugely effective. Aside from same- day service, online order availability, and full personalized service; Al’s Rubbish & Container, unlike other larger companies, provide planks to rest beneath dumpsters in order to protect paved driveways, for example. Such perks, he admits, have made a big difference. “We beat out our competitors by giving our customers special attention. We are here to help. It’s not just about collecting dollar bills. I’d rather get nice reports about the business. I’d rather be there for a customer on a Sunday call, than have him/her listen to an answering service.”
While being there for his customers, Al has also been a force of strength for his son, Colby, a University of Rhode Island Environmental Science graduate and the current VP of Operations, who also happens to be next in line to run the trash biz. “I could never be stuck in an office all day,” said his son, who reminisced of childhood days riding in his dad’s truck, and watching the sun rise during morning pick-ups. “I was never embarrassed to have him drop me off. I loved being at transfer stations and riding around.”
A full grown Colby now does “a little bit of everything” and that includes driving, pricing jobs, and networking with the BNI (Business Network International) in order to build relationships with people from a variety of businesses, which include roofers, real estate brokers, dentists and lawyers. “It took me some time to get accustomed to the business but I am learning and trying to make everything easier,” he said, while his father grumbled, “They’re all trying to push me out the door.”
With fifteen satisfied employees, a phone that doesn’t stop ringing, and a knock-out summer season, it may take a lot to push an experienced Al out the door (unless it’s for a haircut). But when that day comes, this businessman who began his career as a district manager at Friendly’s, has the utmost faith in his son’s capabilities. “It doesn’t hurt to have your son by your side, especially when he has the same goals you have. This is his future.”
Call Al’s Rubbish & Container of 77 Providence Road, Sutton, to schedule your first pick-up, 508-865-4193. You can also visit them on Facebook.