By Hayley Gable
In 1941, AJ McDonald had been working in a shipyard when his cousin came to him with the suggestion that he start a septic cleaning business. At first, the idea seemed strange and unfamiliar. However, McDonalds cousin went on to explain that by starting a septic cleaning business, he would receive a grant from the health department.
So, McDonald and his family of nine packed their bags and moved to Halethorpe, where he established AJ McDonald Septic Cleaning, Inc.
At the time, most other septic tank cleaning businesses used simply a flatbed truck to bucket out the tanks, a fairly messy method of operating. McDonald, however, made sure to always be up to date with the most modern equipment that would provide the neatest, most sanitary septic cleanse.
Today, AJ McDonalds two grown grandsons, Jim and Mike, manage the family business and operate it out of the Deerfield community in Pasadena. Even after 70 years, Jim and Mike continue to run the familys business based on the same philosophy of providing a cleaning job that goes above and beyond all others.
When my grandfather started the business in 1941, it was near impossible to find anything in new condition because of the war, explained Jim McDonald. But because the health department was issuing grants, that allowed him the opportunity to receive a brand new 1.5-ton pickup truck, all because clean septic tanks were recognized as a health necessity.
Jim and Mikes grandfather retired in the 60s, and left the family business to his son, also named AJ McDonald. In 1989, the McDonalds made the decision to relocate their family and business to the Deerfield community in Pasadena.
Pasadena has been a great place for our business. Even though its grown tremendously over the last 20 years, theres still that small-town feel where a lot of people know a lot of people, said McDonald.
Running a family business thats been in existence for 70 years hasnt been a completely smooth ride, explains Jim. My brother and I were extremely young when we started in with the business, and we butted heads a lot. Now that were both a little older, we mesh really well together, he said. Its working out very well, and being in the family business is something Im extremely proud of.
Jim recalls the time back in the eighties during his sisters wedding reception when a customer was trying to get in contact with the family about an emergency situation with their septic tank. My dad, in his tuxedo, immediately left the reception to take care of this customers situation, he said. We dont advertise 24-hour service, but thats the kind of customer service that my family has always provided clients with. I think thats what has helped us to survive through all these years.
As for the future, Jim McDonald has no doubt that the business will remain in the hands of his family. I have three young sons, and so does my brother, Mike, he noted. We sure plan on keeping the McDonald name around for as long as we can.
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