by Margaret Leonard
NORTH STONINGTON - In a letter dated December 7th, 2019, Mark "Huck" Perkins Sr. informed his customers, "After 45 years, M. Perkins & Sons will no longer be your residential garbage pick-up company”. I recently sat down with Huck and had the opportunity to speak with him regarding the company's history, the tough decision to semi-retire and what the future holds.
Perkins Rubbish Removal was started in 1956 by Arnold and Barbara Perkins of Groton. In 1964, they moved their home to North Stonington, but continued to operate their business out of Groton. It was always a family operation. Huck remembers his mom, on a hot day, chasing down the garbage truck with hot drinks, or on other days a bag of McDonalds. Even when Huck went to work for Pfizer, he continued to help out with pick-ups.
Around 1980, trash collection for North Stonington abruptly stopped. Up until that point, it had been run by a small business with a pick-up truck. "One December they collected their money and in January they just vanished.”, Huck recollected. He then received a telephone call from a good friend living in Cedar Ridge asking if he would pick up her trash. Thoughtfully, he challenged that if she could reach out to ten or so neighbors to also join in, that would make it more economically feasible for them to offer the service. Three hours later, she called back and had not only ten, but thirty new customers for him! Aware of a sudden opportunity, Huck printed out a few simple flyers and approached additional townsfolk who already had piles of trash waiting to be removed. As he informed more residents of his new service, the business quickly grew.
Eventually, Huck took over the business from his parents while continuing his career with Pfizer. He relied a lot on his wife, Debra, and then his sons Mark and Court. A typical day was working third shift in emergency services for Pfizer, arriving home at 6am, then getting into the truck to do the trash route. Either Debra or he would drive the truck, and when his sons were old enough they would ride on the back. The boys always had a buddy to come along with them and those eager high schoolers would become part of the Perkins family.
As his sons grew older, Huck was aware the modest trash removal business for North Stonington was not big enough to support their three families. His eldest son, Mark, started his own business in lawn care and excavation; the younger son, Court, would go on to work in Stonington.
In 2007, Pfizer decided to make structural changes to its workforce, directly impacting Huck and his family. A Forbes article from the same year stated, ”Pfizer is cutting 10,000 jobs, or 10% of its workforce, in order to save as much as $2 billion in annual sales, and reorganizing its sales and research organizations to try to improve productivity.” What that meant for Huck was Pfizer's signature golden handshake and a forced retirement after 30 years with the company. The rubbish removal business had become his full-time “retirement plan”. Unfortunately, in a business that thrives on reliability and dependability 52 weeks a year, vacations are non-existent.
However, since leaving Pfizer, the business had done well in his hometown of North Stonington. As there was never a goal to expand their service to other local municipalities, the decision was made in 2015 to turn over the remaining Groton customers to CWPM.
CWPM is the same company that has taken over for M. Perkins & Sons here in North Stonington. In the same letter announcing his semi-retirement, Huck said "I hope you will choose to keep them as your garbage pick-up company as they are a very reputable business- I am leaving you in good hands." A little googling will discover a certain amount of poor reviews for CWPM. 11 reviews actually; for the lowest possible 1.1 star rating. It can be noted those were primarily from eight months prior when their fees went from $66 quarterly to $90 quarterly. When I asked Huck about the ratings, he gave a groan. "You know, the hardest thing for a business has been social media.”, Huck noted. “You can be on time every time for 30 years, but one afternoon you get held up at the dump for two hours and before you even have a chance to explain it's all over social media.” For their part, CWPM had made a public statement about the increase in fees. ”To our valued customers, we strive to provide great service with clean newer equipment, safe drivers and experienced, dedicated employees. The cost of operations in the waste and recycling industry has increased substantially recently and we have had no choice but to increase some of our fees. We apologize for this increase but find it necessary at this time. We appreciate your loyalty and understanding. “Thank you, CWPM, 50 years of service"
So why did Huck ultimately choose to release the contract with CWPM? Simple. ”They are the only game in town.”, Huck stated as a matter of fact.
The great news for North Stonington, as well as the surrounding area, is that this is only a semi-retirement. M. Perkins & Sons will continue to operate their roll-off dumpster portion of the business for larger jobs such as garage clean-out, home updates and yard clean-up. You can find more information on their website https://perkinsremoval.com.
"So, are you finally going to take that vacation?", I asked at the conclusion of our chat. Well, for this family man, the grandkids and his wife are his devotion. So, it may need to be a family vacation.