The hush of morning is broken by the rumble of a local garbage truck approaching. As children watch the truck arrive, Ayers workers wave at them, then haul away the household trash.
That part of the business was very important to Ayers Corp.; its workers were always friendly and someone always was in the office to answer the phone.
In a letter dated June 9, Ayers owner, Jo-Ann Williamson, wrote to customers: “It is with mixed emotions that I send this notice.”
She was turning over her customer accounts and sanitation service agreements to Blue Diamond Disposal as of July 1.
“It was just time,” she said recently. “We were always the little guys competing with the likes of Waste Management.
“The trucks needed a huge rework or to be replaced, and the family decided that our time had come. We chose to suggest our customers transition to Blue Diamond because they are also a family-owned business.”
The company got its start because the bank denied a loan to the Ayers family to purchase the Layton Store.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Williamson said. “The store wasn’t going to work out, so my mom said to my dad, ‘How about buying a garbage truck?’ “
They did, and the business started under the name Eldon Ayers Sanitary Collection in March 1970.
The family-owned business, based in Layton, served the community for 53 years.
“We started by serving the Sandyston and Montague areas,” she said. “The High Point Country Club was starting up about the same time so we served them as well and business grew from there. Also, Harold Phillips was running a garbage business and was planning to go out of business. My father negotiated with him and took over those customers.”
Her younger brother, Jay, served as the company’s lawyer/accountant and her younger twin brothers, Gerry and Larry, came back to this area to work for the company.
Over the years, the family has seen more than its share of untimely and unexpected deaths, yet the business was always able to regroup and continue.
“We were always the little guys going up against the likes of Hamm Sanitation and Waste Management,” Williamson said. “We always had to go that extra mile for our customers to stay in business.”
The number of thankful phone calls, Facebook posts and handwritten notes received when Ayers closed showed how much the business was appreciated.
“Having lived through all of it when you’re in a business and every day someone is waiting for you to get their garbage, I know how tough running a small company can be,” Williamson said.
Ayers Sanitation transitioned to Ayers Corp. after Eldon Ayers died in 2000.
In response to Williamson’s letter, which was also posted on Facebook, many customers moved to Blue Diamond. Others chose to shop around and still others decided that with the cost of waste removal, they’d prefer to haul their own.
Options besides Blue Diamond include Local Waste Management, Grinnell Recycling, Cavalier Environmental Compliance Services, Loeffels Waste Oil Services, Waste Manaement, Balbi and several others.
Some customers, such as John Montefusco, weren’t sure what to do.
“So now that the fine folks at Ayers Sanitation have deservedly retired, any other local alternatives out there to Blue Diamond, who are basically Waste Management ... ?” he asked in a Facebook post.
Blue Diamond customer Rich Then is a fan. “Blue Diamond has always been excellent for us,” he said.
Christine Hryb Pearlman shopped around and found Blue Diamond had the best price for her.
“Since using them, I have not had any missed pickups,” she said. “They come at approximately the same time every week and for me that’s around 10ish so I always have time to haul my trash can out if I’ve slept late.
“And I like that I can go on the website, click on recycle and the calendar will tell me if it’s paper/cardboard day or cans/plastic day. I have no complaints. Good company.“
Trips to the dump
County resident Michael Paul decided to take his trash to the dump. “It’s $5 to recycle and dump my trash.”
Dawn Latincsics is the recycling coordinator at the SCMUA.
“Sussex County residents are fortunate to have access to the SCMUA’s free recycling center in Lafayette,” she said. “Commingled glass/aluminum/plastic containers and separated cardboard, mixed paper and newspaper can be recycled at the SCMUA’s facility at no costs to residents.”
Some towns have dumps; residents may check with the local Department of Public Works for hours and information. In Stillwater, for example, the township offers a Recycling and Convenience Center on Fairview Lake Road that is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, according to the website.
Katie and Eric Schneider went with Balbi when they moved to Newton.
“We went with Balbi because Ayers was higher priced as well as Blue Diamond, which ironically is subcontracted out to pick up Balbi in our area,” Katie Schneider said. “We didn’t even consider Waste Management because of the poor experience we had in at our previous house.
“They wanted to charge us $75 to end our plan all because we couldn’t transfer service immediately and would have to wait three weeks when we moved in. They even suggested that we just transfer so we don’t get charged and pay while we waited to close. So with Balbi there is no fee associated with ending service; they were better priced and easy to deal with.”
Numerous phone messages left for Blue Diamond were not returned.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, statements were incorrectly attributed to Jan Nissen Jones. We regret the error.