Ferrell Blair understands why there’s a stigma about what he does.
Blair has rented and serviced portable toilets for the last four years.
“It’s really not that dirty,” he said. “You can see how I’m dressed.”
Wearing cargo shorts, a button down shirt and crocks – with a heavy pair of rubber gloves – Blair made his rounds one Friday afternoon to clean and service his portable toilets in the field. It takes him about two minutes to do each one, but he spends most of his day on the road, servicing construction sites in Georgia and Alabama. He travels about 150 to 200 miles a day.
In fact, a good barometer of whether construction is picking up may be how busy the portable toilet man is.
“Most of my business is outside LaGrange,” he said. “It just hasn’t picked up here.”
Blair sold real estate and had a farm before overhearing a conversation one day that a local man was looking to get out of the portable toilet business. He decided to get in it.
“I bought his 20 toilets and I was just going to do it on the side,” he said.
Once his name was attached to the business, however, he couldn’t do it halfway. He now operates Southern Portable Services Inc. and has 120 toilets. He provides service to about 100 a week, renting out the rest for one-time weekend functions. It took him until the Thursday after Memorial Day to pick up all the toilets he’d rented out that weekend.
“That’s becoming more popular,” Blair said. Families have parties outdoors and don’t want guests tracking through the house.
“Once they see a portable toilet, and see it’s not dirty, they want to use it,” he said.
Workers on construction sites don’t have a choice.
“People don’t think about their creature comforts,” he said. And because of the stigma of a portable toilet, many people still leave graffiti inside the walls.
“Once they see I’m going to clean it, it stops after a couple of weeks,” he said.
Blair travels in a box truck that carries a divided tank and all his supplies. The tank is empty on one side to hold what Blair collects on his rounds and filled with water on the other side, which he uses to clean and fill the toilets. He services each toilet at least once a week, but sometimes two or three times a week if it’s requested. A construction site usually needs one toilet for every 10 people – at Tucker Cottages, being built off Ragland and Colquitt streets, there are four.
As soon as he opens the door, he sprays the toilet with hospital grade disinfectant. A large tube connected to a hose on the tank collects what’s been left inside. Blair then sprays and scrubs it down with water before leaving the toilet full of fresh water and a liquid he calls “smell good.” He also restocks the toilet paper.
His biggest job was when ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” built a house in Harris County in 2009. The project wanted 24 toilets and several portable sinks and wanted them serviced every day. There were thousands of volunteers on the site.
Blair donated his services.
“It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” he said.