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Help For Those Heavy Duty Cleanups

May 24, 2014

If you are determined to use the nice weather to clean out your garage, basement, parents' house or any other cluttered location, Nick DeGiulio and Corey Heidkamp of Lake Zurich-based Junk Remedy might be able to save your summer.

Hiring a professional to handle this type of job is preferable to spending hours of free time doing it yourself, Heidkamp said, because time is money and getting the necessary Dumpster permits and paying the disposal fees can be time-consuming and expensive. 

No job is too large or too small for DeGiulio and Heidkamp, old friends who went into business together in late 2009. The two men have brought social media marketing, an environmental consciousness and a concern for the needy to their business, which traditionally would have primarily involved repeated trips to the dump.

DeGiulio worked for a couple of different junk removal companies after high school and after he graduated from the University of Montana he was hired by a Denver junk remover. Heidkamp was taking a totally different path as a Professional Golf Association apprentice, hoping to become a golf pro.

When the two met up again in 2009, golf's popularity was waning and DeGiulio wanted to return to Chicago. So, the two decided to go into the junk-removal business together. DeGiulio knew the business and Heidkamp knew how to market and had lots of local contacts.

Today they have nine employees besides themselves working throughout the greater Chicago area, within a 50-mile radius of the city. They own four trucks and also have a 4,000-square-foot warehouse.

"We recycle and donate as much as we can from every job we do, throwing away as little as possible," Heidkamp said. "Anything electronic is palletized and sent to a recycler. Furniture and clothes are donated primarily to WINGS in Palatine, Schaumburg or Niles. We also work off other organizations' wish lists, filling whatever needs we can."

The company works like a well-oiled machine because it has an experienced staff, DeGiulio said. "On a big job, we will have different trucks dedicated to different materials so we can do the sorting on-site and keep our eco-footprint low by not transporting items twice," he said.

Junk Remedy keeps things out of the landfills and gets to help some great local people along the way, Heidkamp added. "We have donated well over $1 million in repurposed goods since we have been in business and the client gets the donation tax receipt."

One of their largest jobs the company completed involved a hoarding situation in an old Chicago home where 26 truckloads were removed from one house. Oftentimes these projects come about when a loved one passes away or is moved into an assisted living facility. Junk Remedy prides itself on being respectful with these situations by helping family members who often feel overwhelmed, DeGiulio said.

Junk Remedy gives free estimates, schedules a specific day and time for the work and handles all loading, labor, clean up and disposal fees. They are also licensed, bonded and insured.

"We meet with potential clients and find out how they want the job done and then try to be as cost-effective as possible. We offer a very significant bang for our clients' buck. Our minimum fee is $140 and it goes up to $550 for a full truck. All of the hauling, labor and disposal fees are built into the price of the truck. In addition, any goods that can be donated are donated and the client gets to itemize those donations," Heidkamp said.

"Much of our business comes through word-of-mouth and social media referrals from satisfied customers," DeGiulio said. "We have a very high referral rate. Our website also gets lots of hits and we are in the process of developing a mobile website to make scheduling a pickup even more immediate and convenient."

In addition, advocating for Realtors and helping Realtors get their clients' homes ready to sell has become integral to Junk Remedy's business. So Heidkamp and DeGiulio value the long-term relationships they have developed with the Realtor community. Heidkamp even became the first male to sit on the Chicago chapter of the Women's Council of Realtors' governing board in its 65-year history, acting as board secretary in 2013.

"We work with Realtors, contractors and asset managers for banks to get foreclosed homes sale-ready," he said. "In one day we can get the home cleaned out, doctored up and broom swept for showing so we are working hard to establish a rapport and develop long-term relationships with these businesspeople."

"In fact, on Angie's List we are now in the top 5 percent of junk removal businesses (out of 317) in the Chicago area and that is a rating that you cannot buy," DeGiulio said.

Offering free cleanup services to (and sometimes distributing water bottles at) local events like the American Cancer Society's various Relay For Life events and Arlington Heights' Salute 5K Run has also fostered relationships that have later brought them business referrals, Heidkamp said.

This August the staff will also be involved with the "Fort2Base" run from Fort Sheridan to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

Junk Remedy has also distributed toys to children at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines and donated cleanup service packages to various organizations' raffles.

"We are a community-based, locally owned and operated company -- not a franchise. So we believe in working hard to give back to the local communities that support our business," Heidkamp said.