Junk hauler adjusts business to pandemic

  • Sarah Mawhorr, owner of Schaumburg-based Elite Command Junk Hauling, has been working in the junk-removal business for more than a year. Business has been more difficult recently, because the real estate market has slowed, and fewer people need their houses cleared of unwanted furniture before real estate.

      Sarah Mawhorr, owner of Schaumburg-based Elite Command Junk Hauling, has been working in the junk-removal business for more than a year. Business has been more difficult recently, because the real estate market has slowed, and fewer people need their houses cleared of unwanted furniture before real estate. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/5/2020 8:20 AM

Sarah Mawhorr has been hauling junk, mostly unwanted furniture that must be cleared from houses before a real estate closing, for just over a year.

Spring is generally a busy time in the real estate business, so it has been a busy time for Mawhorr and her company, Elite Command Junk Hauling, based in Schaumburg.

 

But business has slowed in the past month during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she has had to haul something even less glamorous -- dirt and leaves.

"This is usually a time where I would be really busy," Mawhorr said. "This business, junk hauling, is driven by the real estate market."

Before a real estate closing, people often need to get rid of furniture they didn't want. Mawhorr is hired to take the items and haul them away in her truck, a white Isuzu box van she bought new last year for $58,000. Her two employees do the moving.

In the past, she has been able to donate the items. Recently though, furniture donations aren't being accepted and she has had to pay to dispose of the items, and that affects her bottom line.

"Through March, we were doing all right," Mawhorr said. "We were still pretty busy, but it seems like all of the closings that were in progress happened."

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Now, closings are not being scheduled because people are not putting their houses on the market, she said.

She makes less money hauling dirt and leaves, but the "outdoor work" keeps her employees busy and it does generate needed revenue.

"If I stop working, I'm going to lose the business," she said.

While her greatest concern during the pandemic is she or her employees will get sick, the nature of the work does lend itself to social distancing.

Mawhorr has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration, and has received a confirmation number only due to the significant backlog.

Before starting the business, Mawhorr had been a stay-at home mom for 15 years. Before that, she worked on the Daily Herald's business desk for 10 years.

• Do you know of a suburban small business with a compelling story to tell about working through the pandemic? Send photo director Jeff Knox a detailed email with LIFE'S WORK in the subject line at jknox@dailyherald.com, and we'll consider it.

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