Over its 60-year history, Andy Gump Temporary Services has seen its growth fueled by a knack among three successive generations of family leadership for seizing opportunities and moving the company in new directions.
Today the company, based in Santa Clarita since 1985, has annual revenues of around $23 million, but its origins are humble. Massena “Andy” Gump, the Colorado-born founder, didn’t initially plan to go into the temporary site business until an ordinance was passed in the 1950s requiring portable restrooms on construction sites. During a run hauling Christmas trees, Gump happened upon a man looking to sell a septic pump truck for $300 in 1945. Gump borrowed $200 from his father and uncle and bought it. He designed and built the first five portable toilets out of plywood and steel framing, and a business was born.
Personalizing the portable toilets was suggested by Andy’s sign painter, Larry Fontana. Painting “Another Andy Gump” on each unit gave Andy greater visibility and helped the venture grow. It’s a slogan that can still be seen across Southern California. “We are grateful to Larry for helping to make “Andy Gump” a generic term for a portable restroom in Southern California,” said Barry Gump, Andy’s son.
Barry worked alongside his father and brother. While in junior high school, they helped build and paint those first five wood restrooms in their garage, and joked about how heavy the steel framing made them. Later, after serving for four years in the Air Force, and years working side by side with his dad, Barry took over as CEO around 1970.
Continuing the business after founder Andy Gump stepped down was a natural transition for Barry. He opened a new line of business, providing temporary power to construction sites during Southern California’s construction boom, when he bought a supply of power lines and poles from an acquaintance who had obtained them in a sheriff’s sale.
“Dad was really the entrepreneur and the visionary that brought in other services,” said Nancy Gump, third-generation proprietor at Andy Gump, now that Barry has stepped away from day-to-day management. Nancy’s mother was also involved, handling payroll and billing and working in human relations for 27 years before retiring to a higher calling: grandmother.
Nancy joined the company 28 years ago to provide customer service/sales for a new emerging market called Special Events that emerged after the 1984 Olympics. During her teen years, she would spend time in the trucks with her grandfather and father. “I loved to be around them. I would witness my grandfather’s and my father’s drive and integrity. I was never pressured to join the team. I would go with my dad so that I could spend time with him,” she said. “I loved the new emerging market of events with upscale VIP restrooms and restroom trailers.”
As a young woman, Nancy quickly realized that Andy Gump wasn’t exactly the most glamourous place to work. But she knew that the company was making a difference, had integrity, and was more than sustainable. Given a number of unsavory nicknames, some playing off the family name, Nancy took the high road. “I responded that I was the ‘princess of portable sanitation,’” she said.
Barry and Nancy both saw opportunity for growth by going upscale, in the form of VIP trailers and executive restrooms for weddings and graduations, and larger events such as golf tournaments. These self-contained units don’t require outside power or water, and some include vanities, music systems and TVs. Whenever possible, Nancy made a woman-to-woman marketing appeal, promising a level of comfort that men might not think much about. Research conducted at a garlic festival with regular and high-end units showed guests said they were more likely to stay longer and return to an event featuring the fancier units.
Andy Gump’s passion and drive paid off when the company provided 800 units during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. This contract was a game changer and was the impetus for a new market. “It helped us see we needed a bigger storage yard, which led to moving the company to Santa Clarita,” Nancy said. “Land here was more affordable and everyone was friendly, so the move made sense,” Nancy said. “The construction boom in the Santa Clarita Valley was a big factor in our move here in 1985.”
During the run-up to the Olympics, Barry didn’t concern himself with the activities of his competitors. In fact, he considered them his allies. “A competitor is far better off as a friend. There are times that you need help,” he said. That approach helped win the Olympics contract. “We were a small company at the time and my father and grandfather knew that this would require a big staff and hours of manpower,” Nancy said. “So we included other companies in the proposal. My grandfather was always willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done well.”
That attitude has fueled growth that has expanded the company from one storage yard to five throughout Southern California, in Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, North Hollywood, Fontana, and San Diego. The North Hollywood site, a hanger-like structure known as “the barn,” houses the company’s high-end trailer units, which have been used at the Academy Awards, Vanity Fair parties, and celebrity weddings. “If the barn is empty a couple of times a year, we know we’re doing our job,” said Nancy Gump.
Whether that job passes to a fourth-generation Gump remains to be seen. So far, the company has rebuffed acquisition feelers from larger competitors. “Andy Gump is still a strong name brand in Southern California,” Nancy Gump said. “The company hasn’t sold out to a huge corporation; it’s still a family business. We work really hard to convey what we do, and we do it well.”