Skip to main content

Helping to reduce veteran unemployment – one haul at a time

Locally owned and operated franchise helps veterans, while keeping junk out of landfills

share arrow printer bookmark flag

November 17, 2022

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – U.S. Air Force veteran Catherine Peters said the 23 years she spent in the equipment rental business — working with forklifts, woodchippers and stump grinders – was good – but something seemed to be missing.
Little did she know, a decision to stop and pay attention to a television commercial early one Wednesday in July 2019, would send her down a new and successful path.

Peters said her ears perked up when she heard the word veteran come across the TV.

“I thought, ‘I’m a veteran, I’ll listen to this.’” she said. “I was at that right point in my career where I was working, but I was ready for a change.”

There on the screen were Tracy and Jerry “JDog” Flanagan, the founders and owners of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling – a veteran-owned and operated business based in Pennsylvania with nearly 300 franchises around the country.

Founded in 2011 with the goal of helping provide veterans with a career option after military service, JDog Junk aims to reduce veteran unemployment, while at the same time diverting as much from landfills as possible.

Jerry “JDog” Flanagan said franchisees must be owned and operated by veterans or at least be close relatives of one.
Employees don’t have to be veterans, however, many are. 

“The military ingrains a lifestyle of honor, courage and service, and we don’t find that in many civilian workspaces,” Flanagan said.

He said veterans already have what it takes when they walk through the doors.

“Veterans come to us with a unique skill set that sets a strong foundation to be business owners,” he said. “The military trains them to follow a process, and that’s what it takes to own a franchise. But more importantly, they bring passion, a desire to continue serving those around them and tremendous loyalty to their jobs.”

Inspiration takes shape
Peters, an Air Force vet, said she didn’t have to think about it long before reaching out to JDog.

“I contacted them immediately that day and started the ball rolling,” she said.

By May 2020, she opened her own JDog franchise in the Oshkosh market.

Soon after, she expanded to Appleton, Green Bay, Madison East, Madison West, Mequon, Waukesha and Wauwatosa. 

Earlier this month, together with her husband, Nathan, an Army veteran, Peters added the JDog Brands carpet cleaning franchise – JDog Carpet Cleaning & Floor Care – to the mix.

She said the Appleton location, at 312 W. Northland Ave., is the hub of the Fox Valley operations where she and her team – which consists of 11 employees – sort through the stuff they haul and remove.

It is also the location of the APX (artisan pantry exchange) Thrift store.

Peters said much of the merchandise at the store comes from the removals they do, along with a few local specialty items, including BelGioioso Italian cheeses, Watkins products and kitchen items.

She said 25% of what they take in, they donate to thrift stores such as Goodwill, Bethesda and ReStore.

Another 25% to 35% of it goes to the APX Thrift store.

JDog Junk Removal & Hauling aims to reduce veteran unemployment, while at the same time diverting as much from landfills as possible. Submitted Photo

Of whatever’s left, they separate the metal and sell it for scrap, recycle the paper and cardboard, and what can’t be reused, recycled, resold or otherwise repurposed, is taken to the landfill.

“The mission is (keeping) as much out of the landfills as we possibly can,” Peters said. “And hiring people and giving them a career that is maybe something they didn’t think about as a career, doing retail and e-commerce.”

As far as her fleet – Peters said she has four dump trucks, two dumpsters and a dumpster truck, as well as several pickup trucks and trailers.

Smalltown girl
Peters said she was the first in her immediate family to join the military – serving in the Air Force from 1986-96 as a services specialist.

She said she was selected to be the chef for the Zulu Alert Facility at Bitburg Air Base in Germany, where F-15 pilots are on 24-hour standby ready to be airborne within minutes.

As a personal chef, Peters said she cooked for pilots, crew chiefs and security police.

During her time in the service, Peters said she was also stationed in Turkey for Operation Desert Storm, did two tours in Saudi Arabia and several temporary duty assignments throughout Europe, including being on hand for the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Peters said she was born in Green Bay but moved to Indiana with her family when she was four.

At the end of sixth grade, she said she moved back to Wisconsin with her family, later graduating from Pulaski High School.
Peters said she first contemplated joining the Air Force after a friend of hers’ sister joined.

She said it came down to joining the military or becoming a flight attendant.

“(Being a flight attendant) was always a thought, but I wanted the Air Force more,” she said.

Peters said the Air Force taught her to be adaptable, which serves her well today with JDog.

“You learn that every situation is another opportunity,” she said.

Peters said the Air Force also taught her to problem solve and think on the fly, which also comes in handy with JDog. 

“You can look at some furniture and figure out how you’re going to fit it in a tiny truck,” she said. 

A Swiss army knife of services
Peters said each day is different in the junk removal business.

“It’s a lot of little jobs, sometimes a big job,” she said. “Businesses call us because they’re shutting down their offices and they need to have them cleaned out. We help people move furniture in the house.”

Peters said they will help pretty much anyone.

“We’ve taken down sheds, fences, hot tubs,” she said. “We’ve removed pianos, pool tables and mattresses. “I like going in and organizing things, making things neat. We get to go in and clean up spaces for people and sweep behind us and make everything look nice. That fits my personality well.” 

Peters said she sees her business continuing to grow and looks forward to expanding her offerings, territories and services.
Currently, the 3,200-square-foot APX Thrift in Appleton is augmented by 11 storage units, which she said are rapidly becoming too small.

The JDog Brands doesn’t show signs of slowing down either.

“Our goal is to spread it throughout the entire country – get in all 42,000 zip codes,” Jerry Flanagan said.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending