Connecticut pumping company has satisfied customers for 75 years

After generations handing repairs, installing and inspections, Parent Sanitation parked the excavator and concentrated strictly on the vacuum work.

Connecticut pumping company has satisfied customers for 75 years

Glenn and Lisa Parent, owners of Parent Sanitation of Dayville, Connecticut, along with their daughter Lindsey Parent. (Photos by Joe Vericker)

Glenn Parent, the third-generation owner of Parent Sanitation, has the company doing exactly what he wants it to do: pumping. The company limits its services to pumping septic tanks and grease traps.

Parent Sanitation, in Dayville, Connecticut, used to offer broader septic services. Founded in 1945, the company did a lot of septic tank installations, inspections, repairs and rooter work, but now Parent Sanitation sticks to pumping. Glenn says he decided to restrict the work to pumping because, at 63, he is slowing down a little. 

But in fact, business hasn’t slowed down for the company. Despite the smaller menu of services, the crew is as busy as it can be. With just two drivers, Parent Sanitation pumped more than 3 million gallons in 2019 and about 3.25 million in 2020, even though the coronavirus pandemic affected many of its commercial customers.

Cutting out the installations reduces the amount of time spent waiting for health inspectors or tank deliveries, Glenn says. Cutting out the repair work and the rooter work reduces the number of emergency calls. He even stopped doing inspections of septic tanks.

“I don’t do inspections on systems, and it worked out better,” he says. “We do pumping for three septic inspection companies now. I’m actually getting more work by taking less work, and I don’t get Realtors calling me asking why this failed or that failed. You always get three phone calls from every inspection, one from the Realtor on each side and one from the current homeowner. Now all I do is send those guys a bill at the end of the month. I get a check, and I don’t have any grief at all.”

RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS

Schools, campgrounds and restaurants all slowed down or closed completely in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Parent Sanitation picked up enough new residential customers to continue growing. 

“We lost some good accounts because of the virus,” Glenn says. “We missed some scheduled pumping. Restaurants closed down. We’re down on the campgrounds and schools because of the virus, but we’re picking up more residential work. Overall, we’ve been busier.”

The company has benefitted from being one of the few locally owned pumping companies in the area, since some of their competitors have either closed or been sold to a large regional company.

Lindsey Parent, Glenn’s daughter, who works in the office, says, “I get calls every day from people who want to keep things local. That means everything to us. We’re honored, but I’m the same way. If I can support a local business or family, of course that’s what I do.”

FAMILY TRADITION

Arthur E. Parent started Parent Sanitation in 1945. His son, Arthur H. Parent started taking an active role in the company in the late 1960s after his father had a stroke, but he continued to work at his regular job as a heavy equipment operator at a gravel pit. He would help out with the books and machinery maintenance after his day job.

The younger Arthur was able to retire from the gravel pit job in 1985 and went to work full time for the family business. He didn’t do much of the pumping, but he performed equipment maintenance, including bodywork and welding. His late wife, Lorraine, worked in the office in those years

“My grandparents had a finished basement, and that was the office,” Lindsey recalls. “My grandmother worked for years and never took a paycheck. She would answer the phone any time, day or night. They ran the business out of the basement up until they sold their home in 2013 after she passed away.”

They moved the office to the upstairs level of the company’s garage in Dayville.  

Glenn, Arthur H. Parent’s son, started hanging around the company yard when he was 8 years old, when his father started to become more active in the business.

“When I was just 10, I used to ride in the trucks. Weekends and when my dad got out of his other job, we’d come up here and hang around,” he recalls. Later, he started working after school and summers for Parent Sanitation, but he went to college planning on becoming an engineer. He got an associate degree in mechanical engineering, but he did not complete his bachelor’s degree. He left college during his senior year and began working full time at the pumping company.

“My dad wasn’t happy with me at first,” he says. “He wanted me to do something else, but I wanted to be a worker, not a pencil pusher.” 

Lisa Parent, Glenn’s wife, started working for the company in 1990 as the office manager, and she continues in that role today. Lindsey says her mom takes care of everything behind the scenes and has a good rapport with customers on the phone.

“As incredible as my dad is out in the field, my mom truly runs the office just as well. They make a great team,” Lindsey says. “It’s as though my dad is the face of the business and my mom is the voice of the business.”

Lindsey, who has been working for the company full time since she graduated from college with a business degree in 2019, says she is fascinated that so many people remember her mom’s name and ask for her specifically when they call.

“She has an incredible phone manner, and she really takes her time helping the customers,” Lindsey says. “I truly can’t imagine the business without her. She has played an important role in making this business what it is today.”

FOCUS ON THE FLEET

Arthur H. Parent never did retire from the company, but he died in 2018. When Glenn and his wife took over, one of the first orders of business was upgrading the truck fleet.

“My great grandfather and grandfather were both reluctant to spend money unless it was absolutely necessary,” Lindsey says. “Dad knew it was definitely time to upgrade our trucks. The old trucks didn’t even have AC. After 75 years of working and saving, these are the nicest trucks we have ever had.”

The new trucks are a 2016 Kenworth and a 2019 Kenworth. Each has a 4,600-gallon Andert steel tank and a National Vacuum Equipment blower package including remote control. 

The company also has a 2004 Mack with a 3,300-gallon Andert steel tank and a Wittig RFL 100 pump. With only two drivers working at Parent Sanitation, that truck isn’t in daily use, but it is needed sometimes for customers on roads that don’t accommodate the larger trucks and also as a spare if another truck is down for maintenance.

All the trucks are painted in a distinctive orange and white color scheme. That’s a tradition that goes back a long time.

“My grandfather (Arthur H. Parent) purchased a Brockway pump truck back in the day that was already orange and white. They liked how it looked, the colors stuck, and every pump truck after that was orange and white.” Lindsey says. “They stand out because they are so white and bright, and my dad keeps them really clean.”

Those distinctive trucks and the Parent Sanitation name are pretty much the entire marketing plan for the company.

“Our name and our reputation have just kind of spoken for itself,” Lindsey says. “I remember my grandfather used to put ads in the church pamphlets. I remember going to church and seeing our name in the pamphlet.” Lindsey says they used to buy ads on the placemats at restaurants, but they have never sent out mailers and rarely used coupons.

“Other than our website, our name has truly done all our advertising for us,” she says. “We never actually got around to setting up our Facebook page. People can leave reviews on our website, or people can leave reviews on Google, but other than that, we don’t have any social media.”

Lindsey says when her grandfather was running the company there were more ads in the Yellow Pages. There was also a double listing in the phone book, because the company had two names after it incorporated in 1980.

“We’re known as Parent Sanitation, but we’re incorporated as Arthur Parent Contractor,” Lindsey says. “I know he did that because he wanted the ‘A,’ so we could be the first thing people saw when they were flipping through the phone book. I know that sounds incredibly silly now, it’s so old-fashioned, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it.  I always wondered why we had two names, but that was the reason: ‘P’ was so far back in the phone book that he worried people wouldn’t find us.”

FUTURE IS UNCLEAR

Lindsey is the fourth generation of her family working in the business, but she is not planning on taking the reins. She started working in the office right after she graduated from Hofstra University. A secretary who had been working in the company’s office had recently moved away.

“My mom was in the office alone, and I felt like they were really busy and needed my help,” Lindsey says. “It’s been good. I haven’t regretted it in the slightest. It’s not my forever, but the experience has been really valuable.”

Lindsey has two sisters, neither of whom live in the area and both with established careers in different fields.

“It’s not their thing, not that I ever thought it would be mine,” Lindsey says. She says she is proud of what her parents have accomplished in the business and honored to work there, but it’s not her career plan.

“I do not believe this is for me, and luckily I don’t have the pressure from my parents, because I do want to find something that sparks joy as far as a career for me,” she says.

If she had been born male, things might have been different.

“I know if I was a boy, I would have just started so young and learned the ropes just like my dad did,” she says. “I’m proud to have had this as an option. I think what my grandfather and parents have done with the business is incredible and I did want to come home from college and give this a try. 

I know for a fact I would have regretted it if I hadn’t.”Glenn says he has had some talks with another company about possibly taking over.

“If something works out, I just might be able to retire,” he says.  



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