WASHINGTON — In the world of mergers and acquisitions, a big one in the D.C. region this month went largely unnoticed, though it has a big impact on the big business of portable toilets.
Gainesville, Virginia-based Don’s Johns, a family-owned business that’s been providing portable toilets for special events and construction sites for more than 50 years, acquired Germantown, Maryland-based Gene’s Johns, a family-owned portable toilet provider with 25 years of industry experience, solidifying Don’s Johns status as the largest provider of sanitation services in the mid-Atlantic region.
Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, but the Washington Business Journal recently reported Don’s Johns had $11 million in revenue in 2015.
Don’s Johns, which began life in 1964 building wooden outhouses for construction sites, now has more than 10,000 portable toilet units and, at peak season, about 140 employees.
Portable toilets have come a long way in 53 years.
“We have flushable units with sinks and running water. We have some that are solar-powered, with the inside that is something like you would see in an airplane,” Don’s Johns Chief Operating Officer Rob Weghorst told WTOP.
“And we have our high-end restroom trailers. Some of our customers tell us that the restroom trailers are nicer than the restrooms they have in their house,” he said.
Those trailers have granite counters, hardwood floors and even flat-screen TVs. One version is even called the Presidential Restroom Trailer.
The company’s portable toilets are also color-coded: green ones for special events and blue ones for construction sites. Those rented for construction sites often take much more abuse than those lined up at outdoor public events.
Despite advances, portable toilets still tend to leave their users with a sensory impression that’s a combination of strong disinfectant and deodorizer mixed with the smell of what’s “deposited” in their tanks.
So fancy or not, Weghorst said the most important feature of a portable toilet is ventilation.
“It’s extremely important. You want very good ventilation. Without it, it’s not a pleasant experience,” he said.
Don’s Johns made some news during this month’s presidential inauguration, when some of the hundreds of portable toilets it deployed along the National Mall and in downtown D.C. had their logo taped over at the Architect of the Capitol’s direction, reportedly to comply with advertising restrictions, although that had not been done in previous inaugurations served by the company.
Some speculated there might have been concern “Don’s Johns” would have been perceived as a swipe at President Donald Trump.