Shop Till You Drop

Tennessee PRO got in on the ground floor to serve the 127 Corridor Sale, billed as the world’s longest yard sale
Shop Till You Drop
Rose gets ready to pump a unit while Breeding follows behind to scrub it clean.

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THE TEAM

Tommy and Sandra Breeding operate Tommy’s Port-A-Toilet out of their home in Crossville, Tenn. Tommy works with two route drivers in the field while Sandra manages the office with help from secretary Brandy Lucky. Inventory is stored on their 11-acre property but for convenience they also keep a few units scattered around various towns in the area, contracting with local property owners.

 

COMPANY HISTORY

As a machine operator at a Connecticut textile factory in the 1970s, Tommy Breeding got to talking to the gentleman who came around with the trash truck. The man operated several businesses, one of which handled portable restrooms. “The guy told me, ‘If you ever have a chance to get into that business, get in it,’” Breeding says.

In 1981, he did just that. Breeding was in Tennessee running an automotive shop when the state told him he needed to have a portable restroom on site. Remembering the old man’s words, it sparked an idea. At the time, portable restrooms were a hard thing to find in his area. “I didn’t even know where to get one,” he says. A friend eventually helped him find a contact for a restroom.

Today Breeding has 500 units and serves a 90-mile radius. He also does some septic work, but portable restrooms account for 95 percent of his business, of which 20 percent is special events. He keeps 50 units separate from the construction inventory to be used solely for weddings, tent revivals, cattle auctions and festivals.

 

MAKING CONNECTIONS

When the Jamestown, Tenn., Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea of the 127 Corridor Sale 24 years ago, Breeding provided units for a couple of his aunts and a niece. The following year the Chamber invited Breeding to speak to their organization. He talked about why portable restrooms should be provided for the event. “I explained that not only does it help the travelers, but it gives the vendors a place to go, and it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s good for business because wherever they set them up, that’s where the people would be. Otherwise they won’t shop, they’ll just leave.” He made a good case, and has been providing restrooms for portions of the route ever since.

For the 2010 event, he contracted with about 50 individual property owners between Jamestown, 35 miles to the north, and Pikeville, 30 miles to the south, who set up vending areas on their properties. Some of his customers even made a little money on the deal, as they put out coffee cans with “Donations Welcome” signs.

 

THE MAIN EVENT

The 127 Corridor Sale is billed as the world’s longest yard sale. In all, the route is 675 miles long, covers five states from Hudson, Mich., to Gadsden, Ala., and has over 4,000 vendors, all along Highway 127. It began in 1987 as an effort to lure people off the Interstate highways and show them that the back roads had much to offer in the way of scenery, culture and attractions. Vendors include homeowners as well as professionals who contract with local farmers to rent space in their fields. Headquarters for the 2010 event, Aug. 5-8, was the Fentress Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Tommy’s placed 75 units in roughly 50 locations, mostly farm fields-turned-vending areas. The company’s inventory includes PolyPortables Inc. Integras and PolyJohn Enterprises PJN3s. There’s a variety of colors, but most units are turquoise or mint green.

He also provided four Super Twin hand-wash stations from PolyPortables Inc. “I do push them where you have a lot more food vendors,” Breeding says.

With transport trailers attached to service vehicles, the units were delivered starting a week before the event for use by vendors setting up booths. Similarly, units were left out several days after the sale as vendors took time to vacate their sites.

 

KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN

Starting the day of the sale, units were cleaned every night. The company used two vacuum trucks, a 1995 Ford F-450 and a 2000 F-550, outfitted by Best Enterprises Inc. with 650-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks and National Vacuum Equipment Inc. pumps. One truck headed north, the other south. The process took about four hours starting at 5:30 p.m. They began from the far end of the route first and worked their way back, which gave drivers the opportunity to note problem areas along the way before they swung around and started servicing. If they saw something that concerned them on the way out, such as inaccessibility, they’d contact the customer to get the issue resolved before they returned to refresh units.

Breeding found a creative way to stock units with paper during the day without actually being there. He enlisted the help of a vendor stationed near the restrooms. “At night we’d tie four or five rolls of toilet paper together and toss it into their campsite,” he says. “They’re happy to do it. The ladies especially appreciate it.”

Cleanliness is a matter of pride for Breeding. “I don’t want anything out there but the very best. We are not a pump-and-dump. I want to know that if my name is on it, any woman or child would be comfortable to use it,” he says.

 

WIN-WIN

Although a lot of companies have entered his local market since 1981, Breeding avoids the price wars and tries to compete on service. For the 127 Corridor Sale, most customers represent repeat business, and he always picks up a few new ones each year.

“I try to be reasonable and rent more of them than to try to get a high price and not do as many,” he says. “This way I’m sure everybody has a place to go, and it’s pretty well feasible to do it.” The customers are satisfied, the end-users are happy, and the company makes money.



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