While running Carl Construction and Carl Custom Homes about 30 years ago, Noble Carl saw that there was a growing need at building sites for building waste removal and disposal services. Other needs then presented themselves, each one an opportunity.
Meeting this need, Gainsborough Waste began its operations in 1994, investing in its first new Mack truck in 1996. A few years later in 1999, the Carls courageously moved forward with the formation of their portable toilet company titled Texas Outhouse, which has become a staple of exemplary service in and around the gulf coast. Fast forward over 20 years with Texas Outhouse, a newly identified market segment led to the purchase of its first high-end restroom trailer in 2016. Quick success in this new market led to the 2017 creation of a new standalone division adorned with its own logo, social media platforms and website, titled Luxury Event Trailers (LET).
Privately held, both businesses are under the same ownership, with Noble Carl serving as Gainsborough’s President and brother Paul R. Carl as Vice President.
With some overlap among employees in areas such as accounting, sales, customer service and maintenance, all entities have a strong company culture, which allows for decisions like purchasing new trucks to be made fast and easily. “It makes a great environment for growing your revenue,” says Larry L. Wheeler, Gainsborough’s Business Development Manager.
Today, Gainsborough has grown to about 30 drivers, half a dozen mechanics, a dedicated office staff of over a dozen, and two dispatchers. On the LET side, the division runs under Special Events Director Craig Ray, who operates the division with an assistant, three drivers, and three technicians.
For some businesses, COVID-19 resulted in chaos; for others, it created new opportunities and a way to step up and help others. Known across Texas for its professional service and ability to handle virtually any customer need, Gainsborough Waste continues to work with customers during the worst pandemic in a century.
With a disaster-relief function in place dealing with crises like hurricanes, floods, and fires in Greater Houston, and providing services to relief workers setting up camp in states like Florida or Louisiana, Texas Outhouse was already well-equipped. Able to provide 200 toilets and 10 roll-off dumpsters in just 24 hours, the company is large enough to respond in times of emergency without affecting its existing customers.
“In the toilet division, we have 17,000 to 18,000 toilets, about 75 pump trucks, and six high-volume tankers,” says Wheeler. “In a small or medium-sized company that has far fewer trucks, that would affect their normal business, so they couldn’t do it.”
At its 23-acre key site at 950 McCarty Street in Houston, the company has masses of room for storage and also has the only private wastewater treatment plant in Texas. Accommodating a Type 5 transfer waste disposal station, the site is also large enough to park about 125 trucks.
Growing through the challenges
Before 2020, hand wash stations and hand sanitizer stations were small business segments for Texas Outhouse – but that all changed with the onset of the pandemic. With COVID-related protocols in place, job and construction sites that previously ordered just one handwash station or hand sanitizer station were now asking for many units. Two years later, demand for units and consumables remains high.
“Instead of just once a week, customers now want you to service them multiple times. It’s kind of a new category that sprang up, and it has really blossomed,” says Wheeler. He adds that about 99 percent of the units are rented on a temporary basis. Customers specify the duration of the job, with stations priced accordingly.
Previously used mainly at construction sites, manufacturing plants, and refineries, these wash and sanitizer stations have seen widespread use at COVID testing or injection sites such as NRG Stadium (previously Reliant Stadium) in Houston, where there may be hundreds of people in line at any one time.
Along with delivering and setting up these stations, Texas Outhouse drivers also handle cleaning, water tank and paper towel refills, waste disposal, and more. “It’s a big part of the business across the United States. People who used to manufacture a small amount of these products are now manufacturing a lot, and a lot of new companies have sprung into business.”
Luxury Event Trailers has also shifted gears during the pandemic. Pre-COVID, it was the company’s fleet of 50 luxury trailers – outfitted with high-end amenities such as marble, wood finishing, air conditioning, and piped-in music – that was in high demand, rented by wedding planners and other customers.
Now, the company’s fleet is growing into a more diverse mix of sizes and interior formats – enabling LET to answer the call for virtually any requirement from both existing and new customers.
Lockdown on price
Despite the industry-leading quality of its range of offerings, LET keeps its pricing largely in lock-step with its local competitors, whose fleets are usually composed of far less expensive models, often with many accumulated years of wear and tear.
“We also service brick and mortar stores and restaurants during restroom renovations and water/sewer outages,” says LET’s Craig Ray. “Chemical plants and refineries are another common customer of ours, in addition to school districts and film production companies. The list goes on.”
During the early days of the pandemic, the market for LET’s rentals shifted. Although customers hosting events like church gatherings and barbecues sometimes put things on hold because of social distancing, the healthcare market skyrocketed. “During COVID, the Texas Outhouse division and Luxury Event Trailers just boomed completely,” says Wheeler.
Now that special events are opening up again, the company is being called upon for luxury trailer rentals, and still has equipment at COVID sites.
None of the company’s 50 trailers are brand-identified, a deliberate move on the part of LET. “If somebody’s having a million-dollar wedding, and they hire us through luxury event trailers, they don’t want our name splashed on the side, they want it to look generic,” says Wheeler. “When people go in, they are shocked at how nice they are.” See LET luxury trailers at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxrACtzNhyI.
Looking to the future
The team at Gainsborough Waste, Texas Outhouse, and Luxury Event Trailers looks forward to the future and a post-pandemic world. LET has reached the point where it not only leases out trailers but now has a business segment selling new and used units.
Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse are both expanding, and on the lookout to acquire smaller toilet businesses and roll-off companies, and when the time is right, a site to build a new transfer station.
Along with frequent updates to its website, the company uses a marketing firm to promote itself and is active on LinkedIn and social media sites like Facebook. In keeping with the company’s spirit of genuine Texan generosity, it often answers calls for help from competitors.
“We’re big enough where, if our competitors get in trouble, they’ll call us and say, ‘Hey man, I need a couple of your roll-off boxes, can you help me out?’ or ‘I need 100 toilets,’ or ‘I need 50 ‘handicaps’, can you help me?’” says Wheeler, “and we absolutely help our competitors. It’s been a really great way for us to grow in this market.”