Half a century later, Servpro still cleaning up messes in Lodi

Fred and Veila Burzloff stand with their daughters Beth (Lawson) and Cara (Morris) in front of their first Servpro van in 1971.

What began as a family-owned business that cleaned carpets half a century ago has grown into a service that removes fire and water damage, as well as provides restoration work.

Lodi’s Servpro celebrated 50 years in business Wednesday at its 59 Houston Lane location, and owner Perry Morris said it has been nice being part of the city’s history.

Servpro came to Lodi in 1971 when Fred and Veila Burzloff purchased a franchise from a friend who owned the Sacramento-based business.

A Lodi native, Morris married the couple’s daughter Cara, and ended up working part-time at Servpro in 1988 after losing his job in the construction industry.

Initially, the plan was to work for his father-in-law until he figured out what he was going to do. But the Burzloff’s sold their franchise to their daughter and son-in-law in 1992, and they’ve remained owners ever since.

“When I came out of college, I always knew I’d run a business,” Morris said. “Everyone in my family, they’re all general contractors, architects, engineers, and all have run their own business. I started over in 1988 and was like, ‘I don’t really want to clean carpets the rest of my life.’ But once I got into it after a couple of years and my in-laws were ready to retire, I realized this was a great opportunity.”

Originally operating out of the Burzloffs’ home, and then eventually the Morris’ home, Servpro has been at its Houston Lane location the last 15 years. Prior to that, it was located in Downtown Lodi across the street from the movie theater.

Over the years, Morris has expanded Servpro’s specialties into fire and water damage cleanup, trauma and biohazard cleanup, sewage cleanup, and trauma and crime scene cleanup.

In addition, he and his wife purchased the franchise serving Amador and Calaveras counties. They now have 17 employees serving the Galt and Lodi areas, Rio Vista, Riverbank and Oakdale and the San Joaquin Valley.

More recently, Morris said the company now works with insurance companies and restores damaged property after they clean a site.

“At any one time, we probably have eight to 12 jobs going at once, depending on if it’s water or fires,” he said. “When my wife and I first started, it was just her and I. She had the two kids, and the phones were in our house and she would answer the phones and I was doing the work. So I missed Christmases and Thanksgivings and other holidays. But now its gotten to the point where we have employees on call.”

Morris said his daughter has been working remotely for the company in San Diego, and it looks as if she might come on board when she and her husband move to Lodi from San Diego after he leaves the Navy this summer.

He joked that his daughter might be his exit strategy when it’s his turn to retire, but noted that he still enjoys coming to work every day. He said he does not miss having to respond to calls, though.

“The trauma and the biohazard cleanup stuff, for some people it can be kind of morbid,” he said. “And it’s sad for the people who have suffered a loss, but it’s kind of fascinating work. We go out there and we encounter people when they’re at their lowest. Maybe they wake up at 6 a.m., they come downstairs, step in the kitchen and you’ve got three inches of water in your house because a pipe broke during the night. So people are very traumatized.”

Some of the more interesting sites the team has had to clean-up, he said, have involved animals.

The company had to go up into the hills a couple years ago after a man shot a cougar that was able to get into house.

Several years ago when Galt was growing, Morris said a family that lived on the outskirts of the city heard a loud thumping at their front door. When they opened the door, a rabbit that had been hit by a car ran through the home, leaving a trail of blood everywhere.

Today there are more than 2,000 Servpro locations in the U.S. and Canada.

The company’s headquarters ended up leaving Sacramento for Tennessee, Morris said, and three years ago the company was sold to Blackstone, a private equity firm, for $1 billion.

He said the new ownership has been great, basically leaving franchises to continue providing the service they’ve been known for since 1967.

“We typically work with insurance companies, but people can call us directly,” he said. “Our big thing here is we really take care of our customers. Five-star service is our thing. We’re here because we like helping people.”

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