THE HISTORY OF WICHITA ROTO ROOTER

    When a clogged sewer at his son's home in Des Moines, Iowa, took hours to clear, Samuel Blanc set out to find a faster, easier solution. Six years later, in 1933 Blanc created a funny looking sewer-cleaning machine from a 1/6 HP Maytag washing machine motor, roller skate wheels and a 3/8" cable to turn the blades. The device used a combination of special blades or "knives" to cut tree roots out of sewer lines. No digging was required. A year later, Sam's wife, Littie, christened the prototype, the "Roto-Rooter®".

 

In the depression-scarred mid-30s, those desperate for jobs jumped at the chance to buy their own "Roto-Rooter®" machine from Blanc for $250. Under license agreements, they took the invention back to their hometowns and started Roto-Rooter® businesses.

One of the original five entrepreneurs, Cary R. Alexander, purchased one and moved to Wichita, KS to start his business in 1936. Roto-Rooter® was the only company to actually guarantee that sewer lines would get cleaned of all roots and obstructions without having to dig up the lawn. The motto, "Roto-Rooter®'s patented cutting blades slice through roots and cut them away...Razor- Kleen®!" was emblazoned on service vehicles across the nation.

 

In 1947, Paul and Wanda Farmer purchased a jeep ditch digger with a GI loan and started a ditch digging business, named Farmer, Harter, & Farmer. Mr. Alexander began subcontracting all his digging work to F, H, & F. Paul and Wanda's strong work ethics and values impressed Mr. Alexander and the two families became close friends, Cary even being considered an honorary grandfather to Paul and Wanda's 8 children (the youngest of whom, Rita, he also happened to share a birthday with).

In 1960, Cary Alexander decided to retire, and offered to sell his Roto-Rooter franchise to Paul and Wanda. They saw great potential in the endeavor and jumped at the opportunity. Along with the business, their purchase gained them boxes and boxes full of cards containing information from every job the franchise had completed including line lengths, cleanout locations, and more. This gave Paul and Wanda's technicians the ability to walk right into a job knowing exactly what to expect. 

 

By 1964, they had grown the drain cleaning business to such an extent, they phased out ditch-digging all together. The Roto-Rooter franchise, under their ownership, continued to grow and flourish. Paul and Wanda built the business on a foundation of honesty, integrity, and unmatched customer service that gained them a reputation among customers as being a company they could trust.

 

Always on the forefront of technology, The Farmers computerized their scheduling, dispatching, invoicing, and filing systems in 1989, including all of the information dating back to 1936. One of Paul and Wanda's Children, Jane, went in to software development and created a system (now called SBMS, by JaRay Software) built from the ground up for Roto-Rooter to use on these tasks. Paul and Wanda's company, along with many other Roto-Rooter franchises and other service businesses, use SBMS today for everything from inventory to GPS tracking to online scheduling and more. This, along with impeccable record-keeping, gave Roto-Rooter a definite edge in the industry and continues to keep them on top of an ever-changing technological world.

The business suffered a great loss with the passing of Paul Farmer Sr. in 1992, but his wife, Wanda, capably continued to run the business with the same values and practices.

 

Another of Paul and Wanda's children, Philip, started his own plumbing company and earned a master plumber's license. In 1993, the Roto Rooter corporate office decided all franchise branches should offer plumbing services as well as drain cleaning. In an effort to make this change, without becoming direct competition with her son, Wanda joined the two companies and Philip ran the plumbing division within Roto-Rooter. This gave Roto-Rooter the ability to service it's customers more fully and gave Wichita a plumbing service that could handle any issue.

 

Over the years, Wichita Roto-Rooter continued to expand it's services, adding high pressure water jetting, video camera line inspection, earth-friendly drain care products, and more.

Roto-Rooter Wichita was also the first in the area to do truly trenchless sewer line replacement in 2001. Wanda met with the city officials, filed paperwork, worked with inspectors, and brought trenchless replacement (call pipe-bursting) to the sedgwick county area. This method allowed them to replace customers' sewer lines without tearing up yards, pools, sheds, and other previous obstacles. Roto-Rooter continues to be the forerunner in trenchless sewer replacement, having completed over 1000 in the Wichita area since 2001.

 

Due largely to the foundation Paul and Wanda laid for this business, and the practices Wanda continues today, Roto-Rooter has technicians that remain with the company for decades. Because of this, Roto-Rooter consistently retains the most experience of any drain company locally, and, since all training is done in house by these long-running technicians, Roto-Rooter continues to offer the best in the business and will for years to come.