Cameron Ungar and his wife took a leap of faith when they uprooted their family from the West Coast to the Carolinas where he ultimately landed a position as guest services manager at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Ungar took an even greater leap of faith a year later when he, with the help of two associates, launched Trash & Stash, a brand-new junk removal, moving help, and micro-storage service based out of Fort Mill, S.C.
This is the story of how three Fort Mill/Charlotte-area residents used their collective experiences from the pandemic-ravaged live events and hospitality industry to build a new business together that simplifies busy people’s lives while making a positive impact on the environment and community.
Open for business since April 19, Trash & Stash has exceeded its first operational goal – 30 jobs in its first 30 days – while also diverting materials from local landfills, simultaneously raising funds for a local pediatric cancer foundation, creating jobs, and wowing customers.
From the ashes of a trashed industry to a rebirth in the trash industry.
This is the story of Trash & Stash.
And like many sagas from the tumultuous year 2020, this story begins with the pandemic, COVID-19.
With two decades of event industry experience under his belt including owning his own event services business, Ungar began 2020 with much promise, starting his new job in January at the whitewater outdoor recreation center/event venue. That’s where he met seasoned service and hospitality professional Chase Waychoff, the center’s food and beverage director.
Then came the coronavirus, then came lockdowns, social distancing measures, the bans on mass gatherings, and massive cancellation of events, devastating an industry that relies on people communing together for in-person shared experiences.
Like many in the workforce, Ungar and Waychoff suddenly found themselves laid-off and searching for answers. A longtime associate of Ungar’s, Robert Mohorc, a Marine veteran and special event manager for noted event security outfit Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), was also in the same boat.
Rather than wait around for the prospect of events bouncing back, Ungar began plotting an entrepreneurial future. He figured his days in the live events business were over.
Admittedly, junk removal was not his first career choice.
But he looked around at the growing Ft. Mill area and its ever-increasing number of master planned communities and the preponderance of storage facilities cropping up and a vision began to form. Once the business concept and framework were created, Waychoff and Mohorc were brought on board. They have been instrumental in the execution and launch of the business.
After purchasing a service truck/van from a Honda dealership that Ungar worked at for a few months, the Trash & Stash crew was ready to roll.
Trash & Stash’s first job was delivering a dining room set to a customer who had purchased it on Facebook Marketplace but who had no way to get it to her home. “She found us from a post I made on Facebook,” said Ungar.
Thus, a sweaty start-up was born.
THE DIRTY WORK
With the goal of helping customers simplify and declutter their lives, Trash & Stash offers full-service junk removal, help with moving and/or delivering bulk items, and micro-storage. This also includes home renovation debris removal, storage unit cleanout, estate cleanout, yard debris removal and household disaster clean up, with more services to come as the business grows.
Junk removal is a $10 billion industry and growing according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Trash & Stash has not reinvented the wheel, rather the company is refining it, and improving upon it.
Trash & Stash is carving out its niche with exceptional customer service. “They arrived on time, quickly after calling to set my appointment. They came to look at the job but ended up being able to handle it the same day. Quick, careful and fairly priced. I would highly recommend this company,” raved customer Sandra Vinton.
It’s all about building relationships and providing memorable client experiences, skills that Ungar, Waychoff and Mohorc honed while working in the live events industry.
“Customer service is my jam,” said Waychoff. “We’re not there to just haul junk, we’re there to provide an actual experience.”
The events business is multi-disciplinary and requires skills in planning, logistics, project management, operations – and most importantly, customer service – all of which Ungar, Waychoff and Mohorc have applied to the junk removal business. “I think it’s our customer service skills that sets us apart – coming from the industry that we did,” said Mohorc.
With a strategically defined hyper-local target area in Charlotte’s southwestern suburbs, Trash & Stash serves the South Carolina communities of Indian Land, Fort Mill, Lancaster and Rock Hill as well as North Carolina’s Waxhaw and Ballantyne.
“We prioritize the neighborhoods along the North and South Carolina border because that’s our community,” said Ungar.
For Trash & Stash it’s not simply about growing greenbacks, this business model is about going green as well: Every effort is made to repurpose the junk the crew removes and divert it from landfills.
“I don’t think anybody likes the idea – even if they’re giving something away – of it going straight to the dump and ending up in the trash pile” said Ungar.
Trash & Stash is the environmentally responsible junk removal choice. The crew sorts the junk it removes, with the goal of donating (providing customers with donation receipts), recycling, and repurposing as much as possible. They donate items to Goodwill, while more valuable or collectible pieces are sold on Facebook Marketplace.
The last resort is the dump.
Sustainability is one of Trash & Stash’s core beliefs and its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
Hand-in-hand with its commitment to sustainability, Trash & Stash has an obligation to the community.
Striving to be transparent with customers, Ungar decided that collected items that Trash & Stash sells online will benefit the Isabella Santos Foundation, a local nonprofit that “is dedicated to improving rare pediatric cancer treatment options in an effort to increase survival rates of kids with cancer.”
The foundation resonated with Ungar because a boy in his neighborhood passed away last year from a brain tumor – to witness a family deal with the trauma of losing a young son who had previously been healthy was terrifying and heartbreaking.
“It was important for me to find ways to give back to the community,” said Ungar. “And it’s been a nice partnership with the foundation.”