By Alexandra Cash
JTV Staff Writer
It all began with a man, a horse, and a wagon.
In 1918 William Patton Emmons, owner of an already successful excavating business, had what he needed to begin a business that would serve a local community for 100 years and more into the future. There are few businesses in Jackson that can boast 100 years of operation. This year, Emmons Service, Inc. joins long standing businesses like European Bakery and Brown’s Flowers and Gifts as centennial businesses.
“An accountant shared a statistic with me that only 30% of family businesses make it past second generation,” said Darbi Rowley, Vice President of Emmons Service, Inc. Rowley is the great-granddaughter of William Emmons and she has helped her family beat that statistic of becoming the fourth generation of leadership at the company.
In 1918, when William began the business, trash was being collected from residential areas by horse drawn wagons. He had many “teams” as they were called: a man, a horse, and a wagon. As the business grew and technology of the day progressed the company shifted toward hauling with motorized trucks which made for cleaner and more efficient collection. After 25 years of leadership under William, the company was purchased by his son Robert Hague Emmons, who ran the company for several decades.
David Del Emmons, would become the company’s third generation of leadership. After David finished military service and being unsure about what to do with his future, he came back to Jackson and began working for his father. He worked hard and saw growth in the business due to the attention he put into it. As David’s dedication grew and his father’s age increased be began wanting ownership of the company.
“That’s when it came to the point that I was finding out there were two roosters in the hen house. He would go down to Florida and as vice president, I would make changes. Later he would come home and change them back,” said David.
David decided he would have to move on to another career if he could not buy the business from his father. In 1981, he purchased the business.
As the new president, David started quickly with a spirit of innovation. He first introduced the Curby cart service in 1985 along residential pick-up routes which greatly improved speed and decreased workload of trash collection. Previously, collectors had to retrieve trash from the back of customers’ homes, carry the can on their back, and lift it to dump it in the truck. With the Curby cart on wheels, this allowed the customer to wheel their trash to the curb and the cart was then able to be attached to a cart dumper and emptied into the truck.
David continued to innovate by introducing a yard waste compost drop-off site in 1988, by recognizing that recycling was becoming a large part of hauling. Soon, by 1990 yard waste was not the only material that could be recycled with Emmons. Cardboard, plastics, glass, and metals were able to be picked up curbside or dropped off in large receptacles. At the time, a state of the art truck was purchased by the company, one made with different bins allowing the driver to sort the various recycled materials.
Rowley said the ability to innovate and stay on top of the trends is what has caused Emmons to thrive for these 100 years. Additionally, it is the people of Jackson County. “People have a choice of who they want to have for their trash service. The fact that the Jackson community has chosen us for the past 100 years is another reason why we are successful.”
Emmons is 100% dedicated to seeing the Jackson community thrive. It is the company’s priority to see that money that is spent on services gets reinvested locally through participation with organizations and community events such as the Hot Air Jubilee, Civil War Muster and Eve on the Ave. It also gives back to those in need though organizations like the John George Home and the Interfaith Shelter.
“My grandfather was born here (Jackson), my father was born here, I was born here, and as the saying used to go on the sign to Jackson ‘we like it here’. It’s been good to us and we feel we’ve been good to Jackson. It’s kind of like a partnership,” said David.
David and Rowley do not see the family business ending with their generations. They hope that they will continue to thrive for generations to come. From horse-drawn wagons to diesel powered trucks, Emmons has been working to keep Jackson clean and free of trash for 100 years.
Alexandra Cash is a Jackson native with a passion for world travel, culture, lifetime learning, and adventure. Visit her website to read stories of her adventures at alexandracash.com or view her videos on YouTube at Alexandra Cash – Cash’s Corner.