Daily shred

The Lohse family

Photo By Tom Angel

The Lohse family—Chuck, Jane and their son, Karl—are a destructive bunch. Not only will they store your personal or business records; they’ll also have “the monster,” a $100,000 machine, chew them up into tiny bits. Chico Shred completes a Lohse triumvirate that includes Archive Record Systems and the latest addition, Country Drive Wine Storage. We sat down with the family and it was Chuck who offered up most of the answers to our questions. With their trucks bearing a paper-chomping dragon (his name is Earl), Chico Shred picks up government, medical, legal, financial and other documents that people don’t want to be seen. Security at Chico Shred is tight: Customers arrive by appointment-only, announcing their arrival via intercom. Papers are shredded and compressed into 1,300-pound bales that are picked up by a semi truck and sent—in security-sealed packaging—to a paper mill to be recycled.

So, when did you start shredding?

In January 1996, we had the document storage company and found that a companion business to document storage was document destruction. We started with five containers, a small shredder and a baler that put out 100-pound bales. There wasn’t much demand back then. We couldn’t find clients. It really started taking off [after] Enron.

What about just regular household documents?

I’d say we’re averaging five to 10 what we call “walk-ins” a week. Their average cost is between $25 and $35 for their numerous years of accumulation. … Many of them are worried about identity theft.

These aren’t your home office-quality shredded strips?

Last year we changed our equipment to what we call a “grinder” that breaks them into small “snowflakes.” It basically makes it so you can’t put it back together like you could with strips. Also, a strip could still have information on it.

Do you ever feel tempted to read any of the stuff?

No, and we also have closed-circuit television. If we caught an employee reading, they’d be fired. Plus, to keep the machine going we don’t have time to read. [More importantly], we’re members of the National Association of Information Destruction (NAID). NAID’s a strong organization that has set standards and a code of ethics that we follow, along with a certification program.

Does this mean you have destructive personalities?

Yes. This is our therapy room. Seriously. In the old days when we had the really little shredder, we’d just throw the paper in and destroy it. It’s great therapy. We had a sign up: Therapy Room.

And now you’re storing wine?

We started in 2002. There’s a $5,000 bottle of Mondavi in here, and one guy is saving some wine for his daughter’s wedding. [Lohse points to a case of Charles Shaw’s “2-buck Chuck."] I’m running an experiment to see if it’s getting better with age at all.