As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, North Idaho resident John Merwald spent more than a decade serving his country.
Now, he’s serving the community through JDog Junk Removal & Hauling North Idaho, a business he launched during the pandemic to employ military veterans, members and their families.
The business is part of JDog Brands, a national franchise that provides such services as junk removal, hauling, carpet cleaning and floor care.
Merwald, who also has a background in the telecommunications industry, launched the business in June after moving from California to North Idaho with his wife, Regina, a Post Falls native.
“When I got out (of the Marine Corps), I started dabbling with doing my own businesses and ended up doing some work in mental health departments working with veterans,” Merwald said. “After relocating from Camp Pendleton, I knew that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to hire vets.”
JDog Junk Removal & Hauling North Idaho provides a sense of purpose to veterans transitioning from active duty and also fills a need for military family members who might be struggling with obtaining work because of their history of frequent relocations, he said.
The company, which currently has six employees, provides service in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Its services can be scheduled through the parent company’s corporate website at www.jdogjunkremoval.com.
“It’s in our DNA to serve our communities,” Merwald said. “You get a real military vibe of trust, respect and integrity. It’s a great chance for the community to help out veterans and get the work they need done.”
Since opening last summer, business has been brisk, with customer inquiries for mobile home demolitions and property cleanups.
“We do a lot with estate sales. They just want the property cleaned up and want everything treated well,” Merwald said.
Brandon Serpa, an Army veteran and team lead supervisor for JDog Junk Removal & Hauling North Idaho, said he enjoys the camaraderie of working with other military members and veterans.
“We understand each other. The pace of work is very high and, as ex-military, we are trained to move quickly,” he said. “It’s nice to work with a lot of like-minded people and serve the community as best as we can.”
The business helps families with marketing garage sales and also picking up unsold items for free. Those items are donated to Newby-ginnings of North Idaho Inc., a nonprofit that provides basic necessities and essential household items to veterans, active military members and their families, Merwald said.
Pennsylvania-based JDog Brands was founded in 2011 by Army veteran Jerry Flanagan and his wife, Tracy. After the couple had gone through bankruptcy, Flanagan researched recession-proof industries and found junk removal to be a viable option.
JDog Brands has since expanded to more than 250 franchise locations. The company has two service lines, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling and JDog Carpet Cleaning & Floor Care.
“We want to be an influencer in the veteran employment space and lead the country in reducing the veteran unemployment rate to below 1%,” Flanagan said in a statement announcing the company’s 10-year anniversary Wednesday. “Every time we open another franchise, we’re showing the American people how important it is to prioritize veteran hiring, and giving them an opportunity to support veterans themselves.”
The national unemployment rate for veterans was 5.2% in February, a slight increase from 4.9% the previous month.
Merwald anticipates hiring more employees in the region as the company grows.
“We’re hoping as people hear about JDog and what we are doing in the Spokane and North Idaho area, we’ll have enough jobs to continue hiring and moving forward,” he said. “We are hoping to have five or six teams with four to five people per team.”
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