Change Constantly Challenges This Cape Cod PRO

Working through the busy tourist season or the upheaval of COVID-19, Matt Frazier takes a creative approach to serving his customers.

Change Constantly Challenges This Cape Cod PRO

Matt Frazier has operated portable restroom rental and service businesses in the small town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod for almost 35 years. But in a tourist region where summer visitors drive extraordinary demand, this PRO weathers seasonal and economic cycles with a host of businesses that consistently support the company. Keeping staff busy during winter months also means performing a lot of work for themselves, from truck maintenance to building luxury restroom trailers.

Frazier initially started two business divisions. M.A. Frazier Disposal specialized in commercial and residential trash and recycling pickup, and septic pumping. Frazier expanded operations into portable restrooms by purchasing Comfort Cabins of Cape Cod in 1988. The portable restroom business was profitable, growing to 2,500 units. But an economic downturn, coupled with high fuel prices, saw the entrepreneur selling the division to an eager international buyer in 1999.

“For the next few years, our disposal division continued to grow, and we added roll-off container rentals in 2000, with ground storage containers and pods added later,” says Frazier. 

But after five years, the company that purchased the restroom business pulled out of the area. Frazier says he isn’t surprised that an outside company may have had difficulty wrapping its arms around the cyclical nature

of Cape Cod’s portable restroom market. With a winter population of just 3,500 residents, the town is inundated with as many as 100,000 tourists a day during the summer season.

“I was born and raised here, and over the years the shoulder seasons in spring and fall are getting busier,” he says. “But winter and summer are still like night and day. You have to own a lot of equipment year-round to service customers during the busy season.”

RESTROOMS RETURN

The company resumed portable restroom rental and service in 2004, starting with 50 restrooms, a pickup truck with a slide-in tank from Lely Mfg. and the efforts of existing staff from the disposal division. 

“We did no new marketing,” Frazier says. “All of our old customers started to return organically.”

Today, M.A. Frazier offers 1,400 portable restrooms. The majority are from Satellite Industries, with some from PolyJohn. About 200 of the units are ADA compliant. The company uses Walex Products deodorizers. Portable restrooms are delivered using four self-built trailers. Two can haul eight units, and two can haul 12. The company offers six luxury restroom event trailers, all self-built to custom standards.

“We used to order from outside suppliers, but a high number were damaged during delivery and had to be sent back,” says Frazier. “We decided we could customize them to our needs.”

The luxury trailers include air conditioning, simulated marble interiors, porcelain sinks and toilets, and built-in stereo. The largest unit is 25 feet long and eight feet wide and features seven toilets. Each unit is delivered with wicker baskets containing designer soaps, gum and facial tissues.

EQUIPPED FOR SUCCESS

M.A. Frazier offers two dozen Tuff-Jon sinks from T.S.F. Company — and almost 300 self-built units. 

The restroom units are serviced by a fleet of 13 vacuum trucks from builders including Robinson Vacuum Tank, KeeVac Industries, Amthor International, Best Enterprises and Progress Tank. Truck brands include Ram, Freightliner, Isuzu, Ford and Sterling. Most vacuum tanks were built of aluminum and stainless steel, and pumps are from Masport. Two trucks were built out in-house and used steel tanks and Conde (Westmoor Ltd.) pumps. 

The company operates from four service yards. The Wellfleet yard, closer to the northern tip of Cape Cod, is the head office and features the company’s garage, shops and maintenance facilities. There, two full-time mechanics perform nearly all of the company’s truck service, with the exception of some work related to advanced diesel emissions technology.  One satellite yard is located mid-Cape in Brewster while another is located in Mashpee on the Cape’s west side. A large storage yard is located in Sandwich, near one of Cape Cod’s western bridges. All of the yards can be used to support portable restroom operations.

Arrangements with several municipalities allow for efficient waste disposal by pumpers located anywhere on the Cape.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

Overall, the company employs 18 workers in winter and 26 in summer. Six are dedicated to the portable restroom side of the business while four swing workers bolster that workforce during the tourist season.

Frazier’s wife, Wendy, works full time for the business. “She plays a huge role in scheduling and routing of our trucks across the business,” he says.

The customer base for portable restrooms splits two thirds for construction clients and one third for events. However, weddings and other events generally keep the company busy in season. An example is Wellfleet OysterFest, which typically attracts 30,000 visitors over two days. Events such as this typically utilize the full services of M.A. Frazier Enterprises, which provides 200 restrooms, hand-wash stations, perimeter fencing, street sweeping and trash and recycling removal services. 

The company provides portable restroom service to all of Cape Cod for events and construction clients. It also provides special event rentals for weddings and corporate events to the nearby islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in season. “Our trucks take a commercial ferry to those locations,” Frazier says. “There are service providers on the islands but it only takes a few excess events to wipe out their inventory. That justifies the cost of an expensive ferry ride for those clients.”

COVID-19 has put a damper on weddings and events — OysterFest was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 — but increased hygiene requirements in construction and on municipal contracts have balanced out the losses. “In construction, portable restrooms that used to be serviced once a week are now serviced five to seven times per week by customer request,” says Frazier. “They need to stress hygiene to keep their businesses operating and to inspire confidence in their employees.” 

The company employs a full-time dispatcher to identify optimal routes and exploit pickup and delivery synergies between the various businesses.

NEW STANDARD OF SERVICE

“If we have an empty roll-off [container] headed off-Cape first thing tomorrow morning, we may also be able to add two portable restroom deliveries that are close to the same route,” says Frazier. “We can place them inside the [container] and double up. Our pumper service route drivers are also made aware of the schedule so they can jump in quickly to save another driver an hour or two.”

The company does a little marketing, mostly through Google advertising. “Our best marketing has always been service, prompt delivery, prompt pickups and exceptionally clean units,” says Frazier.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dissipate, Frazier believes a continued focus on hygiene will be a lasting legacy.

“Increased hygiene awareness and accelerated service levels are here to stay,” he says. “Contractors and municipal clients will be demanding a larger quantity of equipment, a higher level of cleanliness and a higher level of professionalism from portable restroom operators.”  



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