By Paul Post
An entrepreneurial couple has turned a widespread labor shortage to its advantage by adopting state-of-the-art technology to open a new can and bottle redemption center.
The business, called Rocket Recycling, welcomed its first customers on March 11. It is located at a former Stewart’s Shop building at 255 Ridge St. in Glens Falls.
“It’s all about speed, getting people in and out quickly and being super efficient,” said Tyler Russell of Saratoga Springs. “Our tagline is the ‘Fastest Redemption Center in the Galaxy’.”
He owns the firm with his wife, Julia.
“We just saw an opportunity to do something a little different, using equipment to differentiate ourselves from other places like this,” Russell said. “We’ve been kicking this idea around for several years. The biggest problem today is labor, the same as any industry.”
By surfing the internet, the Russells found an Elmira-based firm, JK Peris, Inc., which specializes in recycling equipment. Such technology eliminates long lines and reduces the need for hiring employees.
At supermarkets, customers have to feed cans and bottles into a machine one at a time. At some redemption centers, people may encounter long lines and have to reschedule drop-offs.
“We can do literally hundreds of cans every minute and be super accurate with it,” Russell said. “You should be in and out in minutes.”
The couple did research and analysis to make sure there would be enough volume to make the business viable. The location is in close proximity to a residential area and directly across the street from a new, heavily-trafficked Stewart’s Shop.
Eventually, the couple would like to expand to other markets, Saratoga Springs in particular.
“With Glens Falls, it was finding a building in the right location, all set to go, at the right price,” he said. “It was just the best place to start. There’s a few other locations we’d love to have, but the price is a little bit out of our reach until we know more about the economic realities of the operation.”
Russell is no stranger to the business world, as co-owner and day-to-day operator of a Lake George-based firm called StoriedBoards, which specializes in reclaiming authentic barn board and vintage wood, and reselling it for residential and commercial applications such as flooring, custom furniture, mantels and shelves.
Russell owns that business, which opened in 2012, with his father, Whitney, and brother Garrett. Whitney and Garrett Russell also own and operate Sunnyside Par 3 golf course in Queensbury.
A recent pandemic-related change in StoriedBoards’ business model helped trigger Tyler and Julia Russell’s decision to open Rocket Recycling. Previously, the Russells would go out in the field, and find and bring back vintage wood on their own, from throughout the Northeast. They would enhance the character and attraction of old wood by researching and documenting the history of every structure it came from. So a homeowners could say, for example, that their rustic mantle came from an 18th century barn in Connecticut that was beyond repair.
“Unfortunately, along with everybody else in the world, our lives and business had to change because of the limitations we were faced with the past two years,” Russell said. “With COVID, you didn’t know if there was going to be a work stoppage, you couldn’t leave the state without quarantining. Interstate commerce was prohibitive.”
The Russells had to make a tough choice, cease operations or rely on a select few others to find and provide reclaimed lumber for them. They chose the latter.
“StoriedBoards is doing great,” Tyler Russell said.
The timing seemed right to diversify, so with a good location and the latest technology, he and Julia are now among Glens Falls’s newest business owners.
Rocket Recycling is open six days per week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday; closed Sundays.