On a crisp December morning on Hilton Head Island, Charles Jeffcoat, who does business by the name "Junk Man Joe," loaded up the first haul of the day into the back of his red Chevy pickup.
The rubbish heap contained splintered box crates, a shabby pink bicycle, a roll of old carpet, a broken lawn mower, a dusty grill, a scratched flat-screen TV, leftover roof shingles, some fluorescent light bulbs, a weed whacker, and a cracked flower pot.
Junk by anyone's definition.
For Jeffcoat, it's profit.
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Over the last five years, the 64-year-old Beaufort man has made a living hauling other people's unwanted items away in his truck.
He formed his business plan around the truck because, after investing heavily in real estate just prior to the 2008 economic crash, the truck was all Jeffcoat had left. He and his wife, Wanda, "lost everything but the old truck and my imagination," he said. Without a job and with a lot of time on his hands to think, Jeffcoat was able to identify a need in the area.
"There are a lot of retired folks who do not have access to a truck. Some are physically unable to lift items and others simply do not want to mess with the process," Jeffcoat said.
"Initially the bulk of the items I hauled away for folks were old furniture and broken appliances. Now I am hauling more discarded construction items like old decking, bathroom tiles and fixtures. The economy has improved so people are beginning to remodel and make major improvements to their homes."
To be clear, Jeffcoat is no treasure hunter. Nor is he a fixer-upper. Almost everything he takes from people goes straight to a landfill. He recycles what he can and will occasionally keep something, but as he likes to say, "One man's trash is another man's trash."
On that December morning, Jeffcoat and his hired helper, T.J. Brown, set out for a rental home near Folly Fields Beach that the owner was trying to declutter.
Brown, a soft-spoken teenager, handled the GPS while Jeffcoat drove.
"Turn here Mr. Joe," Brown said, a little too quietly. Jeffcoat, who is hard at hearing, missed the turn.
Brown shook his head and grinned slightly. "You missed the turn, Mr. Joe," he said louder.
Jeffcoat pulled hard on the steering wheel. "Trying to turn this thing around is like trying to dock the Queen Mary," he said.
Once at the house, Jeffcoat and Brown got to work. They tag-teamed the bulky items, but Brown handled getting the heavier items up on the truck.
Jeffcoat was breathing heavily as he tossed up an armload of roof shingles. Brown didn't break a sweat.
"It's fun," Brown said of the job. "We get different stuff every time."
Aside from the broken furniture and the construction equipment that make up most of the loads, Jeffcoat will occasionally haul some strange items. He once moved a trailer full of plumbing supplies. Another time it was more than 2,000 golf balls. Once, a man asked Jeffcoat to take away everything in his entire home.
The most difficult trips so far have included extremely heavy items: two pianos and a pool table.
"Thank goodness they weren't all at the same time," Jeffcoat said.
Awhile back, a woman called Jeffcoat and asked if he was insured.
"I told her, 'You don't need insurance for your trash,' " he said. "We're not movers. We're haulers."
The hauling business was quiet over the holidays, Jeffcoat said, but it usually picks up toward the end of January. "Then it will be like a locomotive, just chugging along."
Word of mouth is the No. 1 way Jeffcoat gets business. Most noticeably, however, is probably the large-print slogan on the side of his truck:
"If it must go, call Joe!"
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.