So while it may be hard to find the good in a community that has seen better days, you do not have to look long to see those folks who are out and about every morning and everyday putting one foot in front of the other. These are the worker bees that make Frankford the rebounding neighborhood it has become. And consider the many small businessmen and women that continue to operate in this community. They are the engines of the Frankford economy and by extension the American economy. I think of the gentlelady I see day after day and year after year making her way to work in the early hours and homeward bound in the evening. Her step is a little slower now. She once said to me that I was an inspiration to her, but really it is she who is the inspiration to me. I see her nearly everyday putting one foot in front of the other, and considering her example and age I have no excuse to be weary. In addition, it’s the convenience store owners, the barbers and beauticians. Those who run the salons, the restaurants and many other small businesses in Frankford. These entrepreneurs enrich us. They make us better. I remember having to sit in a crowed barber shop for hours for a $15 hair cut. Now, here in Frankford, I can be in and out of the barber shop in 15-25 minutes and pay only 5 Dollars! That’s right just 5 bucks. I give a 60% tip and feel good about it too. So this article is about us. To be sure, it is about 2 hard-working Frankford men who fell on hard times. They are amongst the millions hurt by a stagnant economy and Wall Street greed.
Steve’s Bug Off exterminator service and insectarium used to be a thriving business at 8046 Frankford Avenue near Rawn Street in Philadelphia. The place employed over 30 people in the immediate community. After some financial difficulties in 2003 the owner had to shut his doors. Jeff Parks and Tyrone Bryant needed work. It came as no surprise to them that finding employment would be difficult, but at middle age they found the prospect downright daunting. They had worked at the company for nearly a decade and had serviced a broad customer base. Tyrone covered all of Steve’s Bug Off”s Center City base and Jeff serviced the neighborhoods of the northeast and northwest. Most of their customers would be left unguarded by the closing and that worried many of them. Jeff Parks and Tyrone Bryant saw an opportunity and never looked back. Jeff told me that not only was it an opportunity but a necessity. They needed work. So that was the birth of one of Frankford’s own, TJ Mr. Bugs.
I recently spoke with Jeff Parks of TJ Mr. Bugs:
AH: Jeff what were you doing before opening your business?
Jeff: I worked for a placed called Steve’s Bug Of on Frankford Avenue near Rawn Street. I work there for quite a few years and developed a good rapport with the customers.
AH: And what happened?
Jeff: After his financial troubles the owner sold to Terminix in 2005 and we were out of work
AH: So you started anew. Was that involved? What did it entail?
Jeff:Well as you can imagine it was a little scary, but Tyrone and I had great customers and many who had gotten used to us and wanted to stay with us. Above all we needed to work.
AH: So earlier on what area of the city did you service?
Jeff: Tyrone did work for many businesses and residences in center city and they were comfortable with him and I had many satisfied customers in the Northeast and Northwest neighborhoods. So we continued to service these customers.
AH:Would you tell me a little about how things progressed in the early years?
Jeff: It was not easy. Remember it was 2005 a little before the Great Recession and we had just started a business. However, now it is 2015 and we have survived thank God.
AH: So what is your customer base today? Have you experienced some growth?
Jeff: Growth is slow but apparent. We are looking to develop a website and are doing some other things to increase our base.
AH:What do you customers want mainly? I mean what do they expect from you the exterminator?
Jeff: Well of course they want the problem solved. They want their homes and businesses rid of pests of all kinds and we fulfill that need. We are a full service company. But at the core of it our customers want to trust us. They want honesty and reliability and respect. This I think is the essence of all good business practice. Indeed, these are things that ought to be taught at home where it all begins and it must be from youth up, but I think I am slipping into a different discussion.
AH: Ahhh no problem I hear you loudly and clearly and there will be time for philosophical banter later. Do you continue to service business and residential customers and which do you prefer?
Jeff: Yes, we service residential and business big and small and it does not make a difference who you are big, small or medium. Each job is important to the occupant and we want to service each customer equally.
AH:You have, no doubt, experienced rising operating costs. How do you deal with such issues?
Jeff: We have certainly realized rising operating costs and we try to hold the line on what we charge our customers. Sure sometimes we have had to raise our prices, but we try to be smarter shoppers, buying in bulk etc. We also have been content just to make a living wage. We want to keep our customers via superior service and competitive pricing. So we are not going to get rich but we are paying our bills and staying busy.
AH: I have asked this question because you have been doing my exterminator work for years and I am happy to say that I have not received a price increase. You also have done service work for workplace and church for many years and both are pleased with your work.
AH: Out of curiosity would you give me a best case and worse case scenario pertaining to your business experiences? And what affect did each have on you?
Jeff: The best case is when we got a call from a contract customer who was all but freaking out because he had seen an ant. We quickly got to the site and exterminated the building. That was easy, but on the other hand we serviced a customer with a huge infestation of roaches and bed bugs. It was unsettling! I have seen a lot, but this one shook me. We expunged the house of all pests, but I relived what I had seen in many a nightmare.
AH: Do you see expansion in your future, and where do you find reliable workers?
Jeff: We will expand only if necessary, and in the past we have hired people but only folk we know. The reason for this is our business. Workers have to be honest hard-working and reliable. Those we hire must be well-mannered and must dress properly. We will not abide by anything else. After all, we are in peoples homes and businesses. This to us is very important!
AH: I certainly would like to see more opportunities for small business development, but especially more opportunities for high school or college graduates. What would your suggestion be for young people coming out of school today?
Jeff: I would tell them to have a good work ethic, be dependable trustworthy. I would tell them to set reasonable goals and keep them. And along the way, be friendly and deal honestly with all people.
AH: And what would you say to society at large, Jeff, assuming it could be done?
Jeff: It all begins at home. Parents must put in the time to train children at a young age. Respect is vitally important. Respect for morality, for elders, and for ourselves. These are things the world needs Now.
I left Jeff with plenty to think about. He and his business partner Tyrone are forging ahead. They are part of the group of entrepreneurs and small business men and women who are affecting the Frankford renaissance. Let us support them for in doing so we support ourselves. And as far as what the world needs now, Dionne Warwick said it well enough: “We have oceans and rivers and meadows, corn fields, sunbeams, moon beams, but its love, sweet love it is only thing there’s much too little of.” Yes, love is rebounding Frankford, and more love will take it back to its former stature, and Jeff Parks and Tyrone Bryant of TJ Mr. Bugs are doing their part.
By Alexander Houston
The company: TJ’S MR. BUGS professional pest control
Licensed and Insured
Specialists in termite extermination
General manager Jeff Parks
Phone (215) 288-7570 & (267) 972-6668