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Business Observer Friday, May 11, 2018 6 months ago

Mobile restroom business is flush with potential

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The industry lacks a high-end player. An experienced — and enterprising — couple seeks to fill the void in Florida.  
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

Vince Lufsey wanted to be a police officer. But what he thought would be a temporary gig at his father’s company, Gene’s Johns Rentals, wound up leading to 25 years in the mobile restroom industry.

When Lufsey and his wife, Valerie, had the opportunity to sell the Maryland-based business and its sister company, Blue Ribbon Restroom Trailers, they took it so they could move to Florida. Now they’re setting up shop in Sarasota with a new business, Tailored Thrones, which will build off their previous experience, but in a less labor-intensive way.

In Sarasota, the couple will focus only on high-end restroom trailer rentals. Gene’s Johns Rentals dealt in individual portable toilets — like you might find at a construction site or festival — but those require more manpower for delivery and service. Restroom trailers, often used at weddings and other events and look more like an in-home bathroom, allow the couple to ease into the Florida market.

Valerie handles sales and marketing, while Vince covers operations. “In our previous business, we had 45 employees,” says Vince Lufsey, 48. “I would like to try to keep our labor force to a minimum, because it’s easier to manage. Growth is great, but I’ve learned that you lose a little bit of control every time you expand. We hope we grow large enough to hire a few employees, but I don’t ever want to get that big.”

The Lufseys joined groups such as the International Live Events Association and the Knot to get the word out about their business and build a client base. Valerie also is forging relationships with local wedding and event planners and venues. That’s a key component of their past success, which helped land jobs at the White House and the vice president’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and for major events like the Marine Corps Marathon.

“Developing these relationships was definitely something I worked hard at in Maryland,” says Valerie Lufsey, 46. “It just takes time and patience. We’re constantly trying to put our name out there in front of people, and we’re getting some really great responses, especially from the planners.”

What’s also taken time and patience: finding a place to store their equipment. They tried buying property in commercial business parks, but once people heard what industry they’re in, purchasing became problematic. Now they’re in the process of buying a standalone property to house their trailers.

‘Growth is great, but I’ve learned that you lose a little bit of control every time you expand.’ Vince Lufsey, Tailored Thrones

An office space isn’t as much of a necessity, since most of their business takes place over the phone and internet. “Every now and then you get someone who really wants to come by and see the trailers because they don’t believe the pictures on the internet,” says Vince Lufsey. “For those people we do private showings, but typically we’re not a walk-off-the-street business.”

The way they’ve approached their equipment over the years — it can cost $23,000 for a small trailer and more than $60,000 for a larger restroom trailer — has helped them stand apart from competitors. Regular maintenance alone isn’t enough.

“Some companies will hold on to equipment and run it into the ground until it’s done,” says Vince Lufsey. “We have a different business strategy. As soon as a trailer starts deteriorating, we will happily sell it and buy a new one.”

They’ve already invested more than $300,000 in new trailers and a new pump truck for servicing. And they may be in the market for another trailer, since one of theirs is at a multimonth job in Fort Myers for a country club renovation. A shower trailer is also a possible future purchase, which could be used for multiday events or hurricane relief efforts.

The Lufseys’ Maryland companies were doing about $5 million in combined annual revenue at the time of their 2017 sale. The Lufseys see good potential for growth in Florida, especially since their Sarasota home base allows them to easily serve areas like Orlando, Tampa, Naples and other cities within a two- to three-hour drive.

“I would be very happy with 25% growth each year,” says Valerie Lufsey. “But I’m hoping for more.”

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