Garvin’s turns 70

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Garvin’s Sewer Service is about to celebrate its 70th anniversary, an achievement the company attributes to a dedication to family values – and the kind of service that will never go down the drain.

Sitting down with the current owner Kenneth Aston, one quickly sees the humor and passion this company attaches to their trade, one that continues to be in demand regardless of the rising and falling of the economy.

“People will always have waste,” Aston said, with a smile. “People will always need a company like us. Not a lot of people are focused on blue-collar jobs these days, but we are a company that’s been focused on that for 70 years.”

The company’s motto — “We clean drains not bank accounts” — promises fair prices regardless of the day and time, with no overtime costs for customers and work done by full-time employees.

Garvin’s Sewer Service was founded in 1940 by Russell Garvin, advertised as a small family business of drain and sewer cleaning services, with just five employees. The company began as a branch of the Roto-Rooter franchise with the Garvin name attached. In 1985, Garvin added on a plumbing branch to their existing services, and in 1992, Garvin split with the Roto-Rooter name and became an independent company.

“Splitting with Roto-Rooter could have been the worst business move we made. But we didn’t want to be a franchise,” Aston said. “We wanted to have a customer base that trusted our name like family.”

In the early 2000s, Garvin added a heating and air conditioning department, which he says the company is still trying to publicize, and moved it headquarters from Denver to Englewood. It provides sewer scope, drain cleaning, plumbing and other services to clients in the Denver metro area, including Boulder, Longmont, Golden, Aurora and Castle Rock and has 33 staff members, including 26 who work in the field.

Mitch Gebauer, a 23-year Garvin employee, says he has stayed with the company because he believes in the product. “There is just something about Garvin’s,” he said. “I love the company, and hope to working with them for another 20 years.”

Gebauer said that the biggest change since he has started is the number of competitors, but name recognition has helped keep Garvin’s successful. Eighty percent of the company’s customers are returning customers, many being third generation.

Over the years, Garvin’s clientele base has grown from about 15,000 customers to 20,000, while the number of competitors has increased to about eight, Aston said.
When asked where she sees the company 70 years from now, Kris Jordan, the daughter of Aston and director of marketing, said the company hopes to expand to Colorado Springs and Greeley, open up new locations to satisfy increased demand and add an electrical branch.

For Jordan, the family structure is the most important aspect of the company. “The company was founded on old-fashioned values, tried and true methods, and services that get the job done,” she said.

For 95 percent of small business owners, their business is the largest asset they have. Ned Minor, a longtime Denver transaction attorney for Minor & Brown P.C., says small businesses face more obstacles than publicly-owned franchises.

“Small businesses often deal with undercapitalization, problems with expansion, governmental regulation and interference, lack of a strong, long-term vision, and a focus on immediate issues instead of the final picture,” he said.

And small businesses must run their company as if every day it is for sale, he said: “Privately-owned businesses don’t get the praise they deserve.”

Garvin’s family focus extends to environmental and charitable concerns. The company does do not use Styrofoam throughout the office, as polystyrene has been shown be harmful to the ozone layer. And employees take the company trucks home to decrease gas emissions. On the philanthropic side, at the 70th Anniversary celebration, the company will be donating money to the Metro Denver Realtor Foundation, an organization that supports projects for adults and children in the Denver Metro area.

“It’s a value-based company, not just for profit,” Jordan said.

If you go: Garvin’s Sewer Service open house

When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 3
Where: Garvin offices, 2900 S. Shoshone St., Englewood
The 70th anniversary event is free. For more information: (303) 571-5114.

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Categories: Company Perspectives, Sales & Marketing