River Parish Disposal Is a Louisiana Bayou Mainstay

Gator and Lil’ Gator Frommeyer take a big bite out of the portable sanitation industry in New Orleans.

River Parish Disposal Is a Louisiana Bayou Mainstay

Weldon Frommeyer (left), founder of River Parish Disposal, and his son, Brother Frommeyer.

(Photos by Parker Waters)

In 1982, when Weldon Frommeyer founded River Parish Disposal, a New Orleans waste collection and disposal company, he wanted a logo people would notice and remember. Located in bayou country, an alligator seemed the perfect image. He added a catchy slogan and eventually chose a red color scheme, and between the three impressions, he had a powerful brand image that ensured no one was likely to forget them or get them mixed up with someone else. When he added roll-offs and portable restrooms, they fit right into the scheme.

The association with alligators became further locked in as Frommeyer himself became known as the “Gator.” When his son (called Brother) came along, not surprisingly he became known as “Lil’ Gator.” At 67, Weldon Frommeyer still enjoys the day-to-day duties, Brother Frommeyer says, but now, the two work side by side with a goal of satisfying every customer. The trash side pretty much runs itself, but for portable sanitation, Brother Frommeyer particularly likes to do site assessment work for festivals, determining how many units are needed and where. “But if we’ve got to get in a truck and go run a route, we will,” he says. “Whatever needs to be done.”

River Parish Disposal services greater metropolitan New Orleans, operating out of a 5-acre facility in Metairie, a suburb. It’s very much a family business, with Frommeyer’s mother, Loretta, and sister, Ashley Wimprine, handling office work and brother-in-law, Danny Wimprine, managing sales. The employee count averages 100, with 15 of those for portable restrooms, although the trash-side folks often help out at large events such as Mardi Gras.

One thing Weldon Frommeyer learned from previous forays into the trash business was that he wanted River Parish Disposal to focus solely on commercial accounts. He started out as a one-man, one-truck operation and built the business up to today’s 4,500 accounts. The service fleet consists of Mack trucks with Heil Trailer International bodies — about 80 front-, back- and side-loading collection trucks and 14 roll-off trucks. They have around 400 15- to 30-yard roll-off containers (Wastequip) as well as 15 cardboard balers and 50 trash compactors (Wastequip, Marathon Equipment, Cram-A-Lot).

In 2017, they built a 20,000-square-foot maintenance facility including a welding shop, drive-in wash rack, and paint booth, enabling them to service and refurbish all their trucks and equipment as well as equipment that’s owned by customers but serviced by them.

ADDING PORTABLE RESTROOMS

As the company’s trash business grew, they ran into more and more customers asking if they had portable restrooms. In the mid-1990s, the family took the plunge. Growth was steady until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit — then it exploded. “We went from two trucks to five in a couple months,” Brother Frommeyer says.

Today the company runs four 1993-2006 International and two 2012-13 Peterbilt vacuum trucks: one with a 1,000-gallon waste and 250-gallon freshwater tank, one with a 1,500-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater tank, and four with 2,000-gallon waste and 500 gallon-freshwater tanks. Three were built out by Keith Huber, and all have Masport pumps. In an effort to increase driver safety and bring down insurance costs, the company is in the process of implementing a camera and GPS tracking system from Third Eye Tracking System. Several cameras will be installed in each truck to cover a 360-degree view.

The restroom inventory includes 2,000 standard and 20 handicap-accessible units (PolyPortables Enterprises and Satellite Industries) as well as 50 hand-wash stations and 20 hand sanitizer stands (PolyJohn Enterprises). Around 2000, they added restroom trailers. The first ones were built in-house by modifying temporary office trailers, but after the hurricane, they picked up a couple of pre-owned units from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Then Frommeyer convinced his father they needed to start buying nicer commercial units. Today they have six from Advanced Containment Systems ranging from 12 to 24 feet. Their deodorant products are from Satellite Industries.

There is a lot of synergy between the two sides of the business as they feed off each other. They’ve become a one-stop shop for event customers who need both portable sanitation as well as site cleanup and trash collection. And it’s not uncommon for their commercial trash customers to buy up old buildings and then have River Parish Disposal provide restrooms during renovation and then trash collection afterward. “What’s nice about us is we’re full service, so it’s not like you have to use multiple companies,” Brother Frommeyer says.

THE BIG EASY

New Orleans is known as a laid-back town with great food, a lively music scene, and a rich tradition of festivities. River Parish Disposal gets involved in everything from small block parties and street fairs to massive occasions such as the Naval Air Show, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Zurich Classic golf tournament and, of course, Mardi Gras. They also provide service for big events that come through occasionally — the 2013 Super Bowl, the 2015 IndyCar Series and the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

They also serve fundraising events found nowhere else — the New Orleans Bull Run (substituting the women’s horn-wearing roller derby team for bulls), Hogs for the Cause (one of the country’s largest barbecue cook-offs), the Red Dress Run through the French Quarter (everyone — men too — wears a red dress), and the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival (a po’boy is a traditional Louisiana-style meat sandwich). The event season goes from February to June, slows down in the heat of summer, and then picks up during the fall before the holiday lull.

About 65 percent of the company’s portable restroom work is for construction. During the years following Hurricane Katrina, most of it consisted of rebuilding the city. Frommeyer reports that work is largely behind them, and the city has come back stronger than ever, with downtown booming. Today there’s more new construction. There’s also an unusual amount of renovation work. In order to maintain historic character, the city rarely allows an old building to be torn down, so those buildings are being turned into things like boutique hotels.

BRAND RECOGNITION

Other than the company’s construction units, which are dark and light gray, everything else is red — event units, trucks, trash containers, and compactors. The color, along with the image of a waste-gobbling alligator — entertainingly portrayed in a few 2008 commercials now seen on YouTube — and the graphic slogan, “Our business stinks, but it’s picking up,” has been a very successful marketing tool for the company. “A lot of people come up to me,” Frommeyer says, “and they don’t remember the actual business name but they remember an alligator, they remember the saying, and they remember red. That’s how they know us.”

The alligator image, in particular, ties them to their southern Louisiana roots and let’s people know they’re a local company, something they’re very proud of. “People like that,” Frommeyer says. “You can get in touch with us and not be put on hold. People have my cell number. They call me direct. That means a lot to somebody. I will not go anywhere my cellphone can’t be used.”

Beyond the image, though, the best marketing tool is word-of-mouth, Frommeyer says, and that comes from good service. They deal with a lot of event planners, and those planners do talk to each other. The company is also very active in the community, sponsoring many charitable events. It’s good PR, but it’s also a way to give back to the community they love and that supports them.

Although they’re always trying to grow the business, they don’t cut into someone else’s territory, Frommeyer says. He grew up hearing the expression “Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered — so don’t hog it.” Instead, he likes to build relationships with his fellow PROs so they can call upon each other when the need arises. For example, the 2013 Super Bowl. “I didn’t have all that equipment,” he says, “I pulled contacts from all over. I went to my neighbors and my friends for help and services.”

ENJOYING THE RIDE

As they celebrate the 35-year mark, Frommeyer acknowledges the enormous contribution of their employees, many of whom have been with them since the early days. There are a number of things the company does to show appreciation for their crew: They have company barbecues and a Christmas party, they pay for the young guys to get commercial driver’s licenses, and they willingly lend a hand when someone needs it. “Whatever I can do to help them out,” Frommeyer says, “because at the end of the day, if I didn’t have these guys, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”

Frommeyer is in his element overseeing the family business as vice president. “I love what I do,” he says. “I love meeting people. I get invited to grand openings of bars, restaurants, hotels. The PR work that comes with this — that’s what I like. I’m a sociable person; I like to get out and mingle.” He also feels passionate about New Orleans and loves its many events — although he says the River Parish Disposal team doesn’t always get to enjoy them the way others do.

“When everybody’s having fun, we’re working. But that’s part of business,” he says. “You have to cope with it and learn how to have a good time as well as take care of your work.”


Mardi Gras

Nearly 70 parades take place around New Orleans in the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, which falls on Feb. 13 this year, kicking off Mardi Gras.

The parades are sponsored by groups called krewes, one of the largest being the Krewe of Endymion, whose 2017 parade consisted of $37 million-plus floats, 3,100 riders, and what they estimate was 15 million “throws” (beads, doubloons and other trinkets). The floats and marching bands started at City Park and ended 6 miles later with a dramatic procession through the Superdome, where a cheering crowd of 20,000 tuxedoed and gowned partygoers were on hand for the Endymion Extravaganza ball.

Tucked away inside the football stadium were 150 portable restrooms and 10 restroom trailers provided by River Parish Disposal. And riding on one of the floats was the company’s vice president, Brother Frommeyer. The owner of the Krewe of Endymion spends a lot of money with the company and asked Frommeyer to become a sponsoring member.

“It’s fun,” Frommeyer says, “but it’s hard for me because it’s my busy time and I’m worried about a lot of stuff going on while I’m riding.” It’s all hands on deck for the company during Mardi Gras. “We’ve all got to chip in for that two-week period,” he says. “We work around the clock, 24/7.”

About 20 years ago, Frommeyer’s father and company founder, Weldon Frommeyer, took it upon himself to improve the sanitation situation on the floats, which largely consisted of buckets. He and float builder Blaine Kern (known as “Mr. Mardi Gras”) bought 400 PolyPortables Enterprises split tanks. “We gave them to all the krewes but had a contract that they pay us to service them,” Brother Frommeyer says. The company continues to provide that service and now has about 2,000 units, and the floats are designed with rooms to put them in.

Servicing of the float units, as well as units provided to companies along parade routes who don’t want paradegoers coming in just to use their restrooms, must be done very early in the morning before the parades get started. Regular route work continues, but there’s a lot of juggling of routes and schedules to take into account crowd flow and blocked off streets.



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