After 43 years of family operation and community tradition at Edmonds-based Sound Disposal, the torch has been passed from the Nicholson family to new owner Greg Hale, who pledges to carry on the company tradition of personal service, local focus and family operation.
A community mainstay since 1977, Sound Disposal was owned and operated by Don and Evelyn Nicholson. At the time, the couple had just relocated here from South Dakota, where Don got his start in the business by joining his brothers and cousins in picking up neighbor’s garbage and taking it to the local dump in their trucks.
Their son Norman, who over the years did everything from driving and maintaining the trucks to running various aspects of the business, tells of how Sound Disposal was family-run from the start.
“I was only 12 when my parents purchased the company, and the family was involved in everything from driving the trucks to handling the business paperwork” he recalls. “On billing days we’d gather as a family, including children and grandchildren, to stuff envelopes. We’d frequently order pizza and make it a working meal. It was like a monthly party!”
Over the years the Sound Disposal trucks became a regular feature at local events, where they’d hand out human treats to the kids and dog treats to the pets. “Kids would wave at us as we did our rounds,” Norman added. “Over the years I’ve watched local kids grow up, going from diapers to graduation to marriage to having kids of their own. It’s been great!”
Don died in 2007, leaving Evelyn to head the operation. When Evelyn passed in 2018, her executors began the process of putting the company up for sale.
The bidding process took a while, but on Oct. 19 successful bidder Greg Hale officially took the reins.
Calling his purchase of the company “a dream come true for me,” Hale promises to continue Sound Disposal’s culture and tradition as a family business and to honor the Nicholson family’s 43-year commitment to the community.
“It’s going to be seamless,” said Hale, who was born and raised in Renton.
Hale holds a college degree in finance, but after he graduated in the early 1990s he soon found that being a “bean counter” wasn’t for him.
“I had a friend who was driving a truck for Waste Management, and he helped me get a job there,” he explained. “I did that for about five years before moving up into management.”
“After 30 years in the solid waste business I’ve done everything from driving trucks to administration,” he explained. “I’ve worked it from the ground up, mostly with large companies, but it’s always been my dream to run my own small company. When the opportunity to buy Sound Disposal came up, I jumped on it, put in my bid, and I was lucky enough to get it.
“It’s critically important to me that we stay connected to the community,” he stressed. “We plan to be part of local events and efforts from park cleanups to helping at food banks and homeless shelters. We want to support local organizations that are helping in the community.”
Carrying on with traditions includes keeping staff continuity, and several familiar faces will remain. “Gene Nicholson is still driving our trucks,” he added. “And our newest employee is none other than Gene’s wife Linda, who will manage the office.”
So while the name on the office door may have changed, the focus will stay the same as the new ownership pledges to “shop local, buy local, hire local and stay local.”
Sound Disposal is one of three solid waste collection companies serving Edmonds. Their territory includes the greater Bowl area, with most of the remainder served by Republic Services. Waste Management Northwest serves about 120 homes immediate northwest and south of Lake Ballinger.
— By Larry Vogel