Published June 2018
Where there is a need, there is an opportunity, and Southern Chute Inc. was formed to address the demand for safe, clean trash chutes. Joanna Ribner, president of Southern Chute, shares, “Chet, my husband, was selling cleaning products to commercial buildings and condominiums, and he was always asked about products for chute odor. We researched companies in the northeast market that were in the business, and then designed our own equipment. Chet and his brother Sandy opened the business as partners in September 2001, and Southern Chute was formed.
“We took our ideas to a local company that manufactures high-pressure cleaning equipment and had them modify their design to fit in our truck,” relates Joanna. “A wand with a nozzle is winched to the top of the building. Then we turn on the boiler, which holds super-heated water, a degreaser, and a deodorizer. As the wand goes down the chute, it spins, removing the gunk that has accumulated on the sides and doors. There are no hoses running through the building, and it’s all done internally. Technicians clean the trash chute doors on every floor by hand.”
The company’s first office was in Davie, Florida, in a converted garage. “It started with the three of us and two helpers,” recalls Joanna. “In 2004, we purchased an office warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale, which is where we are today. We opened an office in Ft. Myers in 2012, and between both offices we currently have 20 workers.” Since Chet passed away in 2016, Joanna is currently president and Sandy is vice president of the company.
The company provides service as far north as Daytona Beach on the east coast and Tampa/St. Petersburg on the west coast. Service is centered in areas with high-rise buildings.
Working with communities has given Joanna perspective on the potential strengths and weaknesses of associations. “The biggest challenge we see in associations is the board not allowing the professional manager to manage the building,” she observes. “That can result in the board making decisions solely on price without doing a proper comparison of what services are offered or determining if a company has correct licensing and insurance. We see that play out frequently, and often come in to fix the consequences of those decisions. One time a board told us that another company came in at half our price, but they delivered the sections of chute to the parking lot and didn’t install it. Mana-gers are trained to be professional and know the importance of credentials because anything can happen.”
“There are advantages to working with associations,” according to Joanna. “They may have a professional manager to work with. On big jobs, there is the opportunity to present the project to the board, if necessary. In most cases, there is not a concern about payment.”
The most important aspect for boards to understand, according to Joanna, is that the trash chute is an integral part of the life safety system for the building. “You basically have a chimney running through the center of the building that will draw smoke and flames up if there is a fire in the garbage room. The doors on each floor have to self-close and self-latch. They need a 1 ½ hour UL rating, which means they will not melt or be compromised for that amount of time. The smoke and flames will be contained, providing time for evacuation. There are also sprinklers in the trash chute and a fire damper door at the bottom that should slide shut and seal off the chute.”
The need to keep chutes and their doors operating correctly for safety reasons fuels half of Southern Chute’s business. “Our work is 50 percent cleaning and 50 percent repairs,” says Joanna. Safety and sanitation provide the continuing reasons for Southern Chute’s success.