Clawson’s Junk King spins trash into gold

As the adage goes, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. It’s a lesson that the co-owners and employees of Junk King are taking to the bank.

Consider the recent case of a senior woman who had lived in the same house for decades. When she was ready to move out, she called Junk King of Detroit to help her remove some items from her home. Challenged with mobility issues, the woman hadn’t even set foot in her basement for about fifteen years. When Joi McQueen, one of the co-owners of Junk King, went to the basement to see what sort of job they had ahead of them, she felt like she was stepping into a time capsule.

“It was like time had stopped in her basement. Cobwebs everywhere. Literally, no one had been down there,” says McQueen. “There was stuff down there where I was like, I don’t even know what this is.”

“Some people get emotional sometimes when you’re pulling stuff out of their basements, and they see things they haven’t seen in a number of years,” adds co-owner David Rzepecki.

McQueen, Rzepecki, and fellow Junk King of Detroit co-owner Kent Garibaldi have found themselves in a lot of interesting situations since first opening the Clawson-based junk removal business in January of 2016. There are the time capsule basements. There was the ghost arcade, a former business with over one hundred water-damaged arcade machines in the back. And then, of course, there are the hoarders. If there’s one thing about modern America, it’s that there’s no shortage of stuff. That’s why McQueen, Rzepecki, a and Garibaldi figured a junk removal service seems like a pretty good bet for business.

It’s hard work, removing a house full of stuff. Junk King’s employees work three days on and get two days off; a standard five day work week is too physically grueling, says Rzepecki. And it’s not like many of the houses are neatly packed up in boxes. Workers are often carrying out loads to the dumpster, a five-gallon bucket or two at a time. Bed bugs, too, are often the reason someone might call Junk King.

N job is too big or small; Junk King moves everything from a single television set to an entire house full of stuff. They recycle 60 to 65 percent of the items they haul away. Other items may go to the dump. Some items, say a nice couch still in good condition or a working piano, get donated to various organizations. Employees are allowed to take certain items that are otherwise destined for the trash heap, a perk of the job. One working hot tub stayed in the Clawson facility for months as the college-aged employees eyed it for the school year.

“I’m utterly amazed at the number of hot tubs we take out. It seems like we take one out close to one a day or every other day. It’s amazing,” says Rzepecki. “And half of them are in decent shape.”

Co-owners McQueen, Garibaldi, and Rzepecki are old friends, having all worked in the medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales fields at various points over the years. Garibaldi, whose idea it was to buy into the Junk King franchise, still owns a medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales company today. Rzepecki works with him there. McQueen left the field to run Junk King full-time.

The transition from sales to entrepreneur was an easy one, says McQueen. Having to work on your own, manage a territory, and deal with customers prepared her for running Junk King. She says it’s even more rewarding. She and her partners delight in seeing the joy on customers’ faces after all the items have been removed.

Ten months into the business and the Junk King of Detroit crew is enjoying what they started.

“You get to meet so many people and hear their stories. I love it. I think it beats sales,” says McQueen. “People are so happy; they’re just ecstatic when you’re done getting all of their stuff out. It’s really enjoyable to see.”