Septic tank business owner loses finger, finishes the job
Medina County, where Supek is based, has about 19,000 septic systems, or about 31 percent of all homes.
by Mike Walker
In August 2001, septic man Todd Supeck gave his business the middle finger and left mid-job.
His destination? The hospital. That day, a 100-pound septic tank lid slipped from his grasp and sheared off half his left middle finger. After 19 years of watching customers lose stuff in raw sewage, Supeck finally lost something of his own. He returned the next day with nine and half fingers to finish the call. "You've got to get the job done," he says.
Supeck is a brawny Medina native whose outdoor, 26-year career is evident by the salmon hue of his skin.
Since taking over the business from his father, Todd Supeck hasn't changed its friendly, local business approach. He just supersized it. In six years, the company has grown from three trucks to five; from two employees to five.
Supeck and three other drivers service Medina and Cuyahoga counties as well as Coast Guard boats at Pier 28. After vacuuming the waste from the tank to the truck, the technicians empty the contents at the French Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Despite the company's growth, Supeck strives to keep a close relationship with customers, which sometimes means pulling out of septic tanks everything from dentures ("We were all questioning whether he was going to use them again") to eyeglasses.
It's still a family operation. His parents live across the lot. His children - Katrina, 14, and Tim, 11 - help repair the trucks and sweep the shop. Gayle Supeck, his wife whom he met in high school, answers the phone. That's the way Supeck plans to keep it.
Monday through Friday, he plays septic man in the morning, businessman in the afternoon - pumping out pooh, then paperwork. "It sounds corny, but I really feel like it's important to see what my guys are running into," he says. "I also still have many regular customers. I like going out there."
When Michelle Columbus moved to Medina last year, she was unfamiliar with the area and with septic tanks in general. "I talked to my neighbors," she says. "They said Supeck is who almost everyone uses. [The technician who came out] was really friendly."
Supeck expects nothing less of his employees - not that he ever has to remind them. Only two of them come from outside the family. Regardless of season, Supeck continues to work. After rain, they slosh through mud. Then there's snow. "It's hard work," he says. "When it's 75 degrees, people say, 'Boy, you're lucky to be outside.' They don't say that when it's 10 degrees."
Nonetheless, Supeck loves his business. "People call us, and sometimes we get to see them at their worst," he says. "And I'll remember when you were having your tank cleaned, your daughter was getting married. I guess that's the best part for me."