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Niagara Q&A: Recycling is theme at Ransomville’s Business of the Year

RANSOMVILLE – Walk in the front doors of The Porter Center and you’ll see a busy bottle/can return business to the left and a computer repair/sales business through the tall narrow windows on the right.

At first glance, these two don’t seem to share much in common, but they are both a tribute to owner Doug Adamson’s mantra: “reclaim, recycle, refurbish and reuse.” He’s just brought them together under one roof.

Adamson’s business at 3628 Ransomville Road was recently chosen as Ransomville’s Business of the Year, and it will be honored Friday by the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce at the Conference and Event Center in Niagara Falls.

A steady stream of customers patronized the bottle/can return center on a recent sunny Tuesday morning. Two workers quickly hand-sorted the deliveries into waiting, labeled cardboard boxes or bags and then tallied and handed customers their earnings. A back storage room bulged with clear plastic bags of empties reaching to the ceiling, waiting to be picked up weekly by Bics Recycling, who then bills each distributor for the deposits.

People bring their own empties in for refunds, as do community organizations that collect them as fundraisers. In an effort to promote collections, Adamson designed a waist-high, pyramid-shaped blue cardboard “event container,” which he loans out free for fundraisers, adorned with specific signage detailing each cause. They hold 200 cans apiece. The Porter Center currently handles accounts for more than 40 groups.

“Mount St. Mary’s Hospital has four of the event containers, and they are donating the earnings to the Care-and-Share Food Pantry,” he noted. “They collected $300 worth in just one month. We also have orders right now for Lewiston-Porter, Wilson Little League, Shawnee Snow Chiefs and the Youngstown Lions Club.

“We’ve even had people ask for them for their weddings and we’ll have graduation parties coming up soon,” he said. “It’s a neat way to keep the world green and they’re more attractive than a garbage can (for collecting empties).”

Adamson said he doesn’t advertise his computer repair business. Customers at the can/bottle return area can easily see him working on nearly a dozen computers on shelving that rings the adjoining room by peering through the tall, rectangular windows. Those windows, too, are a testament to Adamson’s devotion to recycling. They were originally the doors to ice cream coolers left behind when he leased the building and began renovation.

With his warm, quick smile and “can do” personality, Adamson seems like a man always on the move. He recently took a few minutes to talk about how his growing businesses first came about.

Are you originally from this area?

I live in the house I grew up in, on Lake Road in the Town of Porter, with my wife, Linda, and our daughter, Mackenzie. I graduated from Lew-Port in 1977. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to go to college. So, I did an apprenticeship at River Oaks and I spent a lot of time at Niagara Frontier Country Club. Then I decided to go to California for a couple of years and worked for the Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. But then, I wanted to come back home. I got a job at Certo Brothers, and ran the second shift warehouse in Niagara Falls.

Then I decided to go to college. I went to Niagara County Community College and then to UB and got my degree in political science. I was working at Certo Brothers the whole time. Then I married Linda and we moved to Youngstown and I did a complete renovation of that house.

How did you know how to renovate a house?

My dad worked for Occidental Chemical, but he built a lot of houses in this area, too. My first job was pulling nails out of two-by-fours for him – a penny a nail. I was probably under 10. But I was a pretty go-at-it kid and my first bill was for $10. He paid up.

Linda and I moved to Lewiston then and lived there about 14 years. Then my parents passed away and we bought their house from the estate and did a complete renovation.

How did you get into computers and recycling?

I broke my neck and was off work for about a year. I didn’t want to go on disability and collect Social Security. I got my first computer in the early ’90s and I just wanted to know how it worked. I took a course and got certified in how to fix them, but you really just have to spend the time and read up on it. I’m pretty much self-taught. The technology is changing daily. I build computers, too.

I also started teaching computers at Sacred Heart Villa because my daughter was going to school there at the time.

I started looking for a place (for computer repair) and I found the spot, next door, where Care-and-Share Food Pantry is now and leased it and my brother, Tim, and I renovated it. I had the computers there first, then started the recycling about three years later. Then I was running out of room for the recycling, and Pastor Bill (Lowery) stopped in and said they were looking for more space for the food pantry. This place I’m in now was available, although it was a disaster, but Tim and I enjoy this kind of renovation work. I thought, this could be a good swap.

We used almost all of the lumber we took down, used the old countertops, and saved as much of the ceiling as we could. We opened the redemption side last August and the computer side reopened about a month ago.

How is business going?

We had 100 people come in last Saturday to return bottles and cans and this is only April. Our busy season is May to July 4.

Those windows (between the redemption and computer repair rooms) are my best advertising for the computer business. I have 10 being worked on now in various stages. I don’t like to rush them and I have them all updated before they leave here.

What services do you offer for computers?

I refurbish laptops and sell new ones, too. I’ll look at the customer’s computer and determine how much it would cost to fix it or whether it would be better to buy a new one. My rates are very reasonable. I’ve donated some refurbished laptops to organizations who need them, like the Youngstown and Ransomville fire companies. I also edit videos. Video-editing is just a blast.

What else can you tell us about your business?

I’m the only one on the computer side. It’s a safety and security concern. I have five employees on the redemption side and I’ll be hiring three or four more when school lets out. It’s all about job creation. I contract with New York State and am licensed by them.

I want to make people aware that the deposits they pay are their money and not the state’s or distributor’s. Recycling bins are not redemption bins. Although the can or bottle will be recycled, the five-cent deposit is lost. Eighty percent of unclaimed deposits are kept by New York State and the remaining 20 percent is kept by the distributor. Unclaimed five-cent redemptions collectively become millions. And, we accept all New York deposits and we have no limit on the size of accepted returns. You can bring back one or 10,000.

The Porter Center will be awarding its first $500 scholarship to Nicholas Fleckenstein, who was our first employee and will soon be a Wilson grad. Next year, we hope to award the eco-themed prize to both a Wilson and Lew-Port graduate.

Any other plans in the works?

It’s an evolving business. I’m just enjoying the ride and I feel blessed.

The Porter Center is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information, call 791-1113.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com.