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On a late summer morning in a gated, golf-course community, a man with brown boots and a trailer is getting his hands dirty. He loads a garage-full of trash, old furniture and electronics into a hulking green trailer — leaving space for his next job at 10 a.m. — and then he sweeps the floor clean. He bids the customer a pleasant goodbye, and then he’s on to the next one.
Hank McClellan, a 50-year-old Army veteran, owns and operates a JDog Junk Removal and Hauling franchise in Centennial. The JDog business, started by a veteran in Pennsylvania in 2011, gives veterans the chance to run their own junk-removal operation. Since 2012, more than 250 franchises have been started in 35 states.
“I had done summer jobs in school, construction work, plumbing, farm work,” said McClellan, a Georgia native and Centennial resident since 2001. “I did a lot, and I didn’t have direction.”
McClellan said he planned to serve a four-year term in the Army “like most guys,” but he ended up serving for 33 years in the Army and Army Reserve. He met his wife while stationed at Fort Carson — they’ve been together for 32 years — and after multiple deployments to Iraq, he retired and took the military’s mandatory transition classes to get back into civilian life.
“I was sitting in the class one day, thinking about what I’d do once I retired,” McClellan said. In a “magazine, JDog had a full-page ad... what I really liked about this (company) is that the owner only sells (franchises) to vets and veteran family members.”
So McClellan went to training in June, got insurance and licenses in July and started hauling at the end of that month. McClellan hopes to run five trucks that will cover the Aurora, Littleton and Parker areas, along with Centennial, in the future. On Sept. 12, he cleaned out the garage at a home in the southeast corner of Aurora.
After so much time in the military, McClellan wanted to do something physical that let him work with his hands. And all those years of physical training paid off — on the job, he’s quick and precise, arranging mounds of what customers want to dispose of or donate in a neat, compact manner in the trailer.
“It’s like Tetris,” McClellan smiled. His jobs have ranged from small loads to cleaning out entire homes.
He’s efficient, but what’s also important to McClellan is respecting the customer.
“They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” McClellan said. “That is true. Even when (loading), the junk is still yours until I drive away.”
If he tosses a lamp in the truck and breaks it and a customer later decides they wanted to keep it, that would be a problem, McClellan said.
“I still treat it with respect,” McClellan said.
JDog’s company website says it offers residential and commercial junk removals, industrial clean-outs, estate and foreclosure clean-outs, and cardboard, metal and paper recycling. It’ll also haul materials and furniture, small or large, to locations of customers’ choice. The company takes purchases from places like furniture stores or hardware suppliers to customers’ homes, and also can haul loads to be donated.
Franchises can also repurpose materials.
An example is “re-staining a furniture piece to make it more desirable,” McClellan said. A “couple of weeks ago, I picked up matching dressers; one tall, the other long. They both had broken drawers and rails and were destined for the wood recycler, but by mixing and matching drawers and rails I was able to make one complete dresser adequate for donation, and only one went to the wood-chipper.”
McClellan’s 30-year-old son Andrew, an Air Force Reserve member, helps him out on some weekend jobs — he’s “kinda my muscle,” said McClellan, who plans to make him his general manager.
“I do see this as my main future career,” Andrew McClellan said. “It’s a business you can be proud of. Not only are you providing a service which people need, but it’s a business (done) in the most environmentally friendly way possible ... items (that) still have value are either repurposed or donated, which helps others in need and avoids unnecessary waste.”
The veteran aspect was a draw for him as well.
“It’s a sad reality that many veterans struggle transitioning from the military to civilian life,” Andrew McClellan said. “While many companies speak of helping our veteran community, JDog puts those words into action.”
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